Summary and book reviews of My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister's Keeper

By Jodi Picoult

My Sister's Keeper
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2004,
    423 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2005,
    448 pages.

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Book Summary

Winner of the 2005 BookBrowse Diamond Award for Most Popular Book

New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult is widely acclaimed for her keen insights into the hearts and minds of real people. Now she tells the emotionally riveting story of a family torn apart by conflicting needs and a passionate love that triumphs over human weakness.

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate -- a life and a role that she has never challenged...until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister -- and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? Once again, in My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult tackles a controversial real-life subject with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity.

Chapter One: Anna

When I was little, the great mystery to me wasn't how babies were made, but why. The mechanics I understood -- my older brother Jesse had filled me in -- although at the time I was sure he'd heard half of it wrong. Other kids my age were busy looking up the words penis and vagina in the classroom dictionary when the teacher had her back turned, but I paid attention to different details. Like why some mothers only had one child, while other families seemed to multiply before your eyes. Or how the new girl in school, Sedona, told anyone who'd listen that she was named for the place where her parents were vacationing when they made her ("Good thing they weren't staying in Jersey City," my father used to say).

Now that I am thirteen, these distinctions are only more complicated: the eighth-grader who dropped out of school because she got into trouble; a neighbor who got herself pregnant in the hopes it would keep her husband from filing for divorce. I...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. One of this novel's strengths is the way it skillfully demonstrates the subjectivity people bring to their interactions with others. The motivations of individual characters, the emotions that pull them one way or another, and the personal feelings that they inject into professional situations becomes achingly clear as we explore many different viewpoints. For example, despite Julia and Campbell's attempts to remain calm, unemotional and businesslike when they deal with one another, the past keeps seeping in, clouding their interaction. The same goes for the interaction between Sara and Anna during the trial. Is there such a thing as an objective decision in the world of this story? Is anyone capable of being totally rational, or do...
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    2005

Reviews

BookBrowse

My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you?   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (362 words).

Media Reviews
People (Critic's Choice)

[Second Glance] is a fast-paced, densely layered exploration of love, the pull of family and the power of both to transcend time.

People (Critic's Choice)

[Second Glance] is a fast-paced, densely layered exploration of love, the pull of family and the power of both to transcend time.

USA Today

Picoult's characters are so compelling that the reader hopes this won't be the last time we meet.

The Washington Post - Katherine Arie

Picoult is at her best, and most moving, when writing from the perspective of Anna's mother, Sara. Exhausted by Kate's recurrent illness, Sara is often on edge and overwhelmed. But she is also focused Her tenacity, her vigilance and her support during Kate's aggressive cancer treatments all give Kate a reason to live. Mothering takes on new meaning, and the mundane becomes surreal Kate's goldfish, according to the oceanologist Sara consults in a desperate effort to save the pet's life, requires bottled water, and the mere thought of buying Jesse a new pair of soccer cleats after Kate relapses seems downright obscene.

The Boston Globe

Picoult writes with a fine touch, a sharp eye for detail, and a firm grasp of the delicacy and complexity of human relationships.

Publishers Weekly

The difficult choices a family must make when a child is diagnosed with a serious disease are explored with pathos and understanding ..... Picoult ably explores a complex subject with bravado and clarity, and comes up with a heart-wrenching, unexpected plot twist at the book's conclusion.

Kirkus Reviews

There can be no easy outcomes in a tale about individual autonomy clashing with a sibling's right to life, but Picoult thwarts our expectations in unexpected ways. Despite overplotting, then, a telling portrait of a profoundly stressed family.

Library Journal - Kim Uden Rutter

Picoult's timely and compelling novel will appeal to anyone who has thought about the morality of medical decision making and any parent who must balance the needs of different children. Highly recommended.

Booklist - Kristine Huntley

Starred Review. Told in alternating perspectives by the engaging, fascinating cast of characters, Picoult's novel grabs the reader from the first page and never lets go. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking, controversial, and honest book.

Reader Reviews
Katie

Excessively long and incredibly predictable
I read this book because people raved about it--I cannot concur. The book was full of flat characters, and the children were not written at all like children, just stupid adults. The 'stunning plot twist' could be guessed from the beginning, the ...   Read More

Cloggie Downunder

A perfect ending twist
My Sister’s Keeper is Jodi Picoult’s 11th novel. It centres around Anna Fitzgerald who has retained lawyer Campbell Alexander to sue her parents for the right to her own body. Anna was conceived to provide (initially) cord blood for her older sister ...   Read More

Stephanie

Another great title from Picoult
Jodi Picoult is by far my favorite author, and once again with My Sister’s Keeper she does not disappoint. In this story, Picoult deals with the issue of “savior siblings” and what happens when the created sibling no longer wants to be poked, prodded...   Read More

Hellany

excellent idea, poor execution
What makes books like these particularly painful is that at its heart, it's a fascinating topic. Donor rights, children's medical rights, how long and how much a family should have to sacrifice to keep a family member alive... these are compelling ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Bibliography:

  • Songs of the Humpback Whale: A Novel in Five Voices (1992)
  • Harvesting the Heart (1993)
  • Picture Perfect (1995)
  • Mercy (1996)
  • The Pact (1998)
  • Keeping Faith (1999)
  • Plain Truth (2000)
  • Salem Falls (2001)
  • Perfect Match (2002)
  • Second Glance (2003)
  • My Sister's ...

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