Jodi Picoult is a best-selling author of 18 novels. My Sister’s Keeper was my first introduction to her writing and is responsible (along with Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth) for me skipping most meetings of my local library book club. The plot revolves around a family whose eldest daughter has leukaemia, they have another daughter who was genetically selected to be a bone marrow donor. The younger daughter gets tired of being a guinea pig and gets a lawyer to speak up for her and threatens to tear her family apart. An interesting premise, apparently Picoult tackles these odd but interesting ethical quandaries.
My Sister’s Keeper is a book bloated with Halmark card sentimentality and fortune cookie wisdom. The story jumped between SIX different narrators, which is supposedly another trademark of Picoult’s. What surprised me about this was that all the characters had, more or less, the same voice and the way she distinguished between narrators was to SWITCH FONTS, which is nothing but a cheap, lazy parlour trick. Several characters could have been cut and many of the story lines were uninteresting and extraneous (my personal favourite superfluous moment of sentimentality was during the lawyer’s flashback to childhood where his rich daddy was yelling at him on the yacht? Who didn’t shed a tear during that scene?)
Stories like these are the reason I turn off the television and this is a movie of the week, at best (although I heard Cameron Diaz starred in the big screen adaptation. Who knew?). Several people I spoke with noted how well researched this book was, but the writing is lazy and many of the little details are very sloppy (ie: Brian mentions if one travels in space for three years, 400 years will pass on earth – not true, Christopher Columbus didn’t launch the satellites in space, nor is one of the cheif concerns of the Mars mission the ‘fact’ that 800 years will pass by the time they get back. One has to travel close to the speed of light for that. In another scene, a woman shows up at a hospital in an octopus costume, raises ‘one arm and eight others move along with it,’ meaning that the costume had ten arms, or eighteen arms (2 real and 8 tied to strings on either side). In another scene Julie says she got her Guatemalan bag (Central America), that she witnessed the weaving of, on her trip to South America. I could go on all day, really). There were so many little details wrong that it led me to question the plausibility of the bigger points of the story (ie: could an embryo be genetically designed or even selected to be a genetic match as a bone marrow donor?).
By the end I didn’t care what happened and the actual ending is ridiculous and unsatisfying, albeit very ‘real’. Everything wrapped up in such a way I could imagine myself in front of the television watching the characters go about their business and then become frozen, mid action, while a little blurb tells us their fate. So, if greeting cards make you cry and if the things you read on fortune cookies resonate deep within you, then you may just love this book.