Ever fearless in raising ethical quandaries, novelist Picoult tackles a biomedical controversy: is it fair to create a life to save a life? Anna Fitzgerald was conceived as a donor for her older sister Kate, who suffers from leukemia. Anna rebels at age 13, fleeing yet another painful operation (a kidney transplant) for her sister’s benefit. She hires a brash lawyer, Campbell, and sues for "medical emancipation"—control of her body. Desperate for freedom, Anna is all too aware of the price—her beloved sibling’s death. The courtroom drama escalates as their mother Sara revives her legal training and fights the case.
Atria. 423 pages. $25.
Dallas Morning News
"With My Sister’s Keeper, Ms. Picoult confirms what those who’ve read her previous 10 novels know: She’s a master, in a league with the Alices (Hoffman, Sebold, McDermott), Anne Tyler and Anna Quindlen; the only mystery is why she isn’t more widely appreciated." Joy Dickinson
"Although this is a good setup for a novel of legal intrigue, Picoult is more interested in focusing on rich and difficult family dynamics. … This book may be Picoult’s breakout book, moving her from a book-group favorite to a wider audience." Robin Vidimos
San Antonio Express-News
"The story is a brilliant presentation of the kinds of dilemmas often engendered by the very gifts of modern medicine. … The clear, true voices of her characters offer just the right mix, allowing moments of comfort, love and humor to lighten the heavy emotions brought into play when there is no single ‘right’ answer to a question of life and death." Susan Yerkes
New York Daily News
"It’s only at the story’s close that she skirts the very issues she’s raised. Yet even if Picoult can’t summon the wisdom of Solomon, My Sister’s Keeper has the emotional tenacity to fuel tears and talk as it becomes a book club must-read." Sherryl Connelly
"It’s an interesting premise, leading to philosophical questions about ethics, morality and the role of doctors when one person’s well-being is at the expense of another’s. … A problem with the book is that it’s told as a series of first-person narratives, skipping from one character to another in a confusing way." Lois D. Atwood
"The novel’s shifting points of view also help to add depth to a cast of characters who would otherwise seem rather thinly drawn. … Nevertheless, My Sister’s Keeper is a thrill to read, and it winds up asking a final, important question: Can a child born to save another ever really be free?" Katherine Arie
The timely topic and tear-jerking capacity of My Sister’s Keeper are beyond dispute. Picoult, a veteran bestseller with ten books to her credit, is known for transforming ethical dilemmas such as abortion, teen suicide, and genetic manipulation into human stories. This novel doesn’t disappoint in its ambiguous moral tack. However, seven first-person narrators prove to be six too many for some critics. Shifting perspectives add depth to the characters (particularly Anna’s lawyer and mother), but cause confusion. The ending elicited a similar mix of admiration and aggravation. But overall, it’s a novel noteworthy both for its sentiment and subject matter.
Also by the Author
Picoult often combines strong writing, controversial subjects (euthanasia, teen suicide), and a touch of melodrama in her books.
Keeping Faith | Jodi Picoult (1999): Mariah’s husband Colin is cheating again, so she and her eight-year-old daughter Faith leave him. Soon Faith acquires an imaginary friend who seems to be teaching her religious doctrine. Then Faith manifests stigmata, leading to a media frenzy and a heated custody battle.