Some works of literature draw you to them time after time. They stick with you long after you have put them down, tucked them away on the shelf, and let them gather dust. However, you have not forgotten them. Actually, you find yourself every so often, taking that book back out, scrubbing off the dust – maybe sneezing while doing so – and then plopping back into the story and letting it move you once again.
One of the hardest questions I am asked is: what is your favorite book? How do I even begin? I could probably create a giant list of favorite books. It would be exhausting. A better question: what is one of your favorite books? Okay, I can handle that one. One of my favorite books is My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult.
A Short Synopsis:
“Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate – a life and a role that she has never questioned… until now.
Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister – and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable… a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves. My Sister’s Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child’s life… even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less?” (http://www.jodipicoult.com/my-sisters-keeper.html)
In my own words, I guess this book, at its core, is about relationships. The relationship between sisters, family members, partners, pets. It is about what brings people together, and what tears them apart. Kate and Anna are tied together because of Kate’s illness, but this is also the very subject that is causing conflict between them. Anna wants to sue her parents for medical emanicaption. She wants a choice. She wants to be heard. She feels invisible. Throughout the legal battle that pursues, the parent’s marriage is threatened, the stability of the family is questioned, the lives of those involved in the legal drama are tested. Jesse, Kate and Anna’s brother, is also suffering, silently. There are many ways to suffer. This book highlights that. Here is a tale laced with irony and symbolism. It is controversial and makes the reader pause. This book emphasizes how people’s lives are connected, how fast moments can pass, how slow they can seem. Jodi Picoult does a great job of capturing human emotion and human struggle. Life is a struggle, and how we deal with it makes all the difference
I guess I like this book so much, because it makes me think. I am engaging and interacting with the text. It is not just something I am reading for pleasure, but something I am actively thinking about. This novel makes me think about my own life, my own choices, the choices others make for me, or around me. It makes me wonder how I might act in Anna’s shoes. It also makes me contemplate if my life is really all that different.
In Crisis Center training, we are taught that sometimes you will be talking to someone on the phone lines who is going through a situation so drastically different from your own life. However, even if this caller is Schizophrenic, was raped, is abusing someone, has cancer, you might not be able to relate to that particular situation, but you can relate to the feelings associated with it. Someone who is Schizophrenic might feel confused, lost, isolated, like no one understands. Have we not all felt this way at some point? The key to connecting with others is not necessarily finding similar situations that can be shared, but more so finding similar emotions or feelings to gain a sense of understanding.
This is kind of how I feel about this book. No, I am not dying from cancer. My sister is not dying from cancer. My family is not torn apart by a legal battle. These things are not happening. But I have felt alone, like no one hears me or cares about what I have to say. I have felt like my time is limited and that it is passing by fast, too fast. I know what it feels like to hope, and then have that hope crushed and the ground beneath me collapse. And then I am falling, down, down, and it is hard to get back up and move again. I have felt the fault lines in a family – how sometimes things just don’t fit together and it can be disorienting and upsetting. I’ve had to make sacrifices. I know these things.
I also look at this book, and I guess it makes me feel a bit better about my own world. I feel horrible saying this, but it is a sort of Schadenfreude type of deal. While reading, I can look at the character’s lives, and be so grateful that mine is better. This book makes me appreciate my health, my family’s health, the time I still have to grow up, get married, have a family, career, life. I can do these things. This book, however, makes me reevaluate what is truly important. Is buying that dress at the mall what I really have to do? Is watching that television show until two in the morning really that integral? It makes me think.
I first read this book probably eight years ago. I have read it several times since then. A movie adaptation came out of it. I personally think the movie pollutes the novel’s story, and fails to capture the integral part of the book – the ironically tragic ending. In the end of the book, Anna has won the legal battle for medical emancipation. However, while she is on her way to the hospital to meet Kate, she dies in a car crash. Therefore, Kate gets the liver she needed all along, and lives, while her sister does not. However, the movie chooses to have Kate die from cancer and Anna live. It is not nearly as powerful or important. We expect Kate to die, we don’t expect Anna to. The movie provides us with what we expect, the book provides us with something new.
It is hard rereading this book again and not being influenced by the movie. It saddens me, because I can no longer read this book and imagine the characters as I once had. A film will most definitely change you. I guess my hope with these bloxes, is to create the adaptation of the book that I had hoped the movie would. I want to create an adaptation that, I believe, captures the essence of the book. This is not being created for some formulaic production company who wants to appeal to a large audience. This is being created for me, by me. This is my tribute to one of my favorite books.
The book is sitting next to me right now and I am looking at its bent corners and cover that won’t lay down straight. It is old, this book. It has been read so many times. It is weathered. It is wise. However, I can’t help but also think it is so new, and will always be new, and that in many ways, it will never age. Whenever I read this tale, I take something new out of it. I catch something I didn’t before. This book is alive. The best books are.