By Jodi Picoult
My Sister’s Keeper is a book written in many voices over the course of a few weeks. It follows the story of a family whose eldest child (Kate) has a life threatening disease and youngest child (Anna) was conceived as a genetic match. Although Anna’s parents originally intended to only harvest her placental stem cells, Kate’s inability to survive her leukemia forces their parents to make increasing difficult and ethically ambiguous medical decisions. As the story opens, we find a thirteen-year-old Anna seeking legal emancipation so that she will not have to undergo yet another invasive medical procedure in order to save her sister’s life. Nestled in between these two sisters is a much neglected son who refused to be ignored anymore. This emotionally powerful novel chronicles a family who, like their oldest child, is on the verge of destruction. The tale is far from obvious, and our predetermined ethical opinions change as each character brings new perspectives forward. Interspersed with poetic excerpts that reference fire and flame, this book is like a fuse that is burning its way to an explosion that shakes everything, including the reader.
My Sister’s Keeper evokes many virtues. You see the struggle of living Agape every day when one child is so very needy and the others fall through the cracks. Faith and Hope take on new tenors as every victory the family experiences eventually become defeat. Fortitude is evidenced in a teenage girl who takes a stand knowing that it could cost her sister’s life, and in a father who awakens to the needs of all of his children. Prudence is explored as we learn the history of a Anna’s lawyer and his first love, and as we watch Kate’s mother try to decipher when to keep fighting and when to let go of her daughter. Finally, Justice appears when the court system begins to weigh whose life has more value: Kate’s or Anna’s.
My Sister’s Keeper brought to light the complexity of Love, and whether or not Agape Love can be commanded or only given freely. We found that Justice had a very interesting place in this book, not just in the courtroom, but in the everyday lives of the characters. Whose life was fair? Was it Just to expect this sacrifice? Was it Just to keep forcing your sick child to fight? Was it fair to sideline the needs of your other children because of the immediate, life and death need of another? We were also able to observe and discuss the things that go missed when Agape isn’t tempered with other virtues such as prudence and fortitude. Some groups supplemented My Sister’s Keeper with another Jodi Picoult novel, or watched the movie by the same name.