Sunday, November 04, 2007

My Sister's Kidney

Title: My Sister’s Keeper
Author: Jodi Picoult

I can be a forgiving reader. Really. I enjoy the cheesiness of laughably bad books. The only books that I find truly detestable are those which insult my intelligence by discussing serious topics in a completely ridiculous manner. Unfortunately, Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper is just one of these loathsome beasts.

Warning: I’m about to spoil the plot of this book shamelessly and with relish! If you had actually wanted to read it…tough.

Kate was diagnosed with leukemia when she was a baby. No one in her family was a perfect match as a donor, so her parents conceived another child for the sole purpose of being a “perfect match” for Kate. They ensured that the child could be a donor through “preimplantation genetic diagnoses.” Enter Anna. By the time Anna’s thirteen, she’s given blood transfusions, bone marrow, and stem cells in order to keep the sinking Kate afloat. Now Kate’s kidneys are failing, and she needs a transplant. Otherwise, she dies.

And guess what? Anna says “no.” No, Kate. No kidney for you.

We actually have a very interesting premise here. Anna hires a lawyer, Campbell, who specializes in obtaining “medical emancipation” for minors. If a court finds that her parents aren’t making medical decisions in her best interest, a judge will give the responsibility to Anna or a legal guardian. Is it in Anna’s best interest to donate her kidney to Kate? Can she be forced to do so? Does she have a legal obligation, a moral obligation? All fascinating questions, which could make for a ripping tell of medical and legal ethics.

But Picoult RUINS IT ALL.

First, she makes Campbell a secret epileptic. And Anna’s interim legal guardian, Julia, is Campbell’s ex-lover. They were high school sweethearts before Campbell inexplicably ditched Julia the day of graduation – which he only did because he’d just learned of his epilepsy and wanted to “protect” her from the truth. Still, sexual tensions simmer between them. However, every time they get close to tearing each other’s clothes off, Campbell feels an epileptic attack approaching and flees the room. Seriously. Every time. He’s just as compulsive about it as Clark Kent. Guess flashing lights aren’t the only stressors that cause seizures…

A not-so-seismic courtroom scene is the book’s climax, and Picoult springs several stupid “twists” upon the reader. I say “twists,” but that’s not really fair, because they’ve been obvious all along. See, Anna’s not really a selfish creature who is so possessive of her bodily organs that she’ll let her sister die instead of relinquishing one measly little kidney. Oh no. Anna refused only because Kate secretly asked her to. *everyone gasp* Apparently, a life in hospitals connected to tubes no longer appeals to Kate. Who knows, maybe she saw The Matrix and freaked. Either way, she’s ready to chuck it all. Anna agreed with the plan only reluctantly, after Kate threatened a gruesome suicide.

Oh, and immediately after Anna’s dramatic confession on the witness stand…Campbell suffers a seizure in front of everyone! Surprise!!! Now Julia knows the truth, and they can live happily every after. But really, why do we care?

(Oh, and there’s another lame side plot where Anna’s father, Brian, is a firefighter trying to discover the identity of an arsonist who has been striking with increasing frequency. In an ironic twist, the arsonist is his own son, who is clearly striking out because he feels he doesn’t get enough attention. Nice. But the son kind of has a point, I guess. I mean, I wouldn’t have cared about him except for the arson, and even with that, he only merited one measly paragraph in this review. Unfortunate boy.)

So now Anna’s an angel (the silly girl won’t even lie under oath), and Campbell and Julia are gazing at each other with bedroom eyes. But what about Kate? She can’t really let herself…die, can she? Isn’t that a wee bit…evil? Don’t suicides go to hell?

Don’t worry, little children, Mommy Picoult will make everyone happy again – or at least morally righteous! And they’ll all get into heaven.

Oh, but Mommy Picoult, how?

Simple. As Campbell, Julia, and Anna drive from the courtroom in the rain – a giant truck hits their car! Campbell and Julia are badly injured, but live. Anna dies. How sad. Actually, she’s brain dead, although still breathing on a respirator. Campbell and her parents decide to pull the plug. Her kidney is quickly harvested and transplanted into Kate, who’s wavered in her determination not to receive it now that her sister’s pavement pancake. Kate makes a miraculous recovery and lives on indefinitely. Yay.


Picoult raised all those interesting questions – medical emancipation, a patient’s right to refuse treatment, etc. – and copped out on them all. None of them resulted in real consequences. How cowardly. Grow a backbone, Jodi. Better yet, if you have siblings, rip one out from them. I’m sure they don’t need it as much as you.

Actually, there was one good thing about this book: Campbell has a dog with him at all times that is trained to detect impending seizures. Whenever someone asks what the dog is for, Campbell gives a smart-ass answer. For example: “I have an iron lung, and he keeps me away from magnets.” “I’m a recovering alcoholic, and he keeps me out of bars.” Or, “I’m color-blind, he tells me when traffic lights change.” Ha! Those were great.

Several months ago, I met a colleague who was clearly very intelligent and driven and dedicated to her career. At first, I found her rather intimidating. But when we were discussing books several weeks ago, she mentioned a pure adoration of Jodi Picoult. While doing so, her eyes shone with genuine admiration.

I’m not intimidated by her anymore.

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posted by Elizabeth at 8:38 AM


Blogger reyn said...

The last two paragraphs of this review are my favorites. Isn't it great when you find out someone has really despicable taste in [anything]? There's a guy who works with my company, but nor for my company. It's somewhat important to keep him informed and involved, but when I found out he was reading the Left Behind series, I stopped listening to him. I can also no longer take any movie recommendations from my officemate seriously after he made me watch Igby Goes Down.

11/05/2007 9:10 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Jodi Picoult is sobbing in a corner somewhere.

Although I have to say, the car accident that makes Anna a vegetable is dreadful.

I have had this book recommended to me. I won't reveal by whom. I'd hate to have your estimation of that individual plummet.

11/05/2007 7:35 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I concur. Liking trash is long as you know it's trash. (Ket, of course, is very good at this!) But taking someone like Picoult or the Left Behind gurus seriously? That's trouble.

One friend can no longer recommend me movies since she made me pay for movie tickets to see Bad Boys II. And I'll probably offend someone by saying this, but anyone who recommends The Da Vinci Code to me automatically loses all credibility!

11/05/2007 7:45 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

To Kat:

Assuming the mystery recommender is someone I'm acquainted with, will you reveal her identity if I guess it correctly? This wouldn't happen be a certain medical professional we both know, would it? : )

Oh, and to make the car accident plot twist even more dreadful, guess who was driving? THE MAN WITH SEVERE EPILEPSY! Sheesh.

11/05/2007 7:51 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Ah, see, now I feel bad. I take it back...partly. Bad Boys II was execrable. But The Da Vinci Code wasn't terrible, just not as world-shattering awesome as everyone told me it would be. If only Dan Brown could write characters as well as he can craft puzzles.

Don't know why I sometimes feel guilty trashing books. As if they were people that had feelings to hurt. Sheesh.

11/05/2007 11:05 PM  

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