July 9, 2009
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My Sister’s Keeper

by Jodi Picoult

Anna is 13. Her big sister has leukemia; all her life, Anna has given her sister umbilical blood, bone marrow, stem cells, platelets.

Now her sister needs a kidney, and Anna wants to say, “no”. The ensuing drama, a legal thriller crossed with a romance, is engaging, and (narrowly) avoids the merely sentimental. In particular, Picoult makes sure we see Anna’s adolescent selfishness, immaturity, and weakness while never making her unlovable. (Picoult is less generous to Jesse, the brother who rounds out the family). The book’s ending is contrived but not unsatisfactory, because its contrivance reminds us that sometimes things simply happen. But by insisting that every character be uncertain, tentative, loving and lost, Picoult ultimately filters out all the ideas from the book; we have five points of view but they are all equally and equivalently muddled.