You guys have probably heard of the movie about this book, starring (among others) Cameron Diaz and Alec Baldwin. It’s pretty famous because it brings up ethical debates such as designer babies, organ donation, and medical emancipation.
Here you go, if you need to cry today.
So it’s a wonderful novel about family, family values, and cancer. As the child of a woman with cancer, this novel hits home in a different way, but it still hits home. It’s wonderfully written, and Picoult takes on a multiple narrator style where you have Anna (the daughter seeking emancipation), Sara (their mother), Brian (their father), Jesse (her older brother), Campbell (her lawyer) and Julia (her guardian ad litem) telling different parts of the story to give you an idea of what’s happening. Anna basically sues her parents for the rights to her own body, because she’s tired of donating parts of her body to her sister who is eventually going to die anyway, with these medical procedures having effects on Anna’s life. One procedure, a kidney transplant, would mean that Anna would forever be at risk if she were to continue playing hockey as she does, because you can’t actually play strenuous sports if you only have one kidney, because you need to protect the other one.
To do this, Anna hires a lawyer with his own baggage and problems with his health to represent her, going up against her mother who used to be a lawyer. Her father, Brian, truly is the glue that keeps the family together; he’s a fireman who knows when to treat his daughters like grown ups and when to treat them like his daughters. Her mother Sara is coping with potentially losing not just one, but two daughters – one to cancer, and one to the law. Jesse, the oldest sibling, is a delinquent who is tired of being ignored by his family and does things his own way. The cast of characters is absolutely delightful and full of life and backstory that, while fleshed out, is also implied so wonderfully that you don’t really need to dig far into the story to find where these characters are coming from. While Picoult is an incredible story teller, one of her greatest strengths is creating brilliant characters.
If you have watched the movie, and have decided you want to read the book though, I advise this: the book and the movie have completely different endings, and the book’s ending is MUCH sadder.
SPOILER ALERT EFFECTIVE
The terrible thing about this novel is that Anna actually does get medical emancipation from her parents, and then dies shortly afterward in a terrible car accident. Being brain dead, her lawyer – who is legally responsible for any medical decisions that she makes – tells the doctors to take her kidney and give it to her sister, because she isn’t going to need it anymore. All her organs are donated, and Anna dies instead of her sister. And I think that this part of the novel makes a really good point: the whole time, Sara and Brian were preparing for the death of their oldest daughter, Kate. Never did they think that their youngest child would die instead, in a way that they weren’t prepared for. The ending teaches us a very important lesson about death – it’s always unexpected, even when you’re waiting for it. And sometimes, it comes from the place where you least expect it.
As Kate says in the book, it’s almost as if God was intending on taking somebody anyway, but instead of taking Kate, he took Anna, which meant Kate got to live.
This ending, I feel, gave the novel a much more realistic view than the movie. The movie felt almost forced in the ending – a happy ending where the parents had to come to terms with Kate’s death and then move on and Anna got what she wanted. Real life is never that simple. People will die. And sometimes, they die young. And that’s exactly what happens here. It’s almost ironic that Anna had to die after making a point that she didn’t want to donate a kidney to her sister. But…that’s life, I guess.
Guys, if you’re into legal stuff, I cannot stress reading Picoult’s novels enough. And it’s not just about the interesting legal stories that she writes; it’s about the characters. This is my third Jodi Picoult novel in two months and I am so convinced of her ability as a writer. She’s got such a brilliant way of creating lovable characters who make you want to keep reading that they’re half the reason you do. It’s about the story, but it’s also about the people who make the story, and that is wonderful.
Read this novel, really think about what organ donation means, and really hug your friends and family who you love because you never know when they’ll disappear.
Final Rating: 7/5.
Buy it here!
Quotes I Liked: