My Sister’s Keeper: 9/20/07

My Sister's Keeper My Sister’s Keeper
A Novel by Jodi Picoult

Our group’s experiences of this book ranged from page-turning enjoyment to exasperated disappointment. People had varying reactions to the characters and the writing, but everyone agreed that the ending was a complete surprise.

We debated about several characters.  Did Sara’s behavior ring true, in her roles as mother and as lawyer? Would someone like Campbell really insist on keeping the nature of his disability secret from absolutely everyone for so long?  Was it believable that Jesse would be so easily turned around from such dangerous behavior?  Could  we have done without the storyline about Julia and Campbell?  Would a 13 year old girl really take the action Anna did?

LD pointed out that someone she knew when she was young did face a very similar situation.  Her neighbor was close in age to Anna, and declined to donate an organ to her very ill sibling.

A & HF remembered a similar story in the news many years ago about a boy conceived for the purpose of donating cord blood to a sister with leukemia, a case mentioned by Jodi Picoult in one of her interviews.

LD approved of a tragic ending, since anything else would have been completely inconsistent with the rest of the story. CD called the ending a big “cop out,” and guessed that the author had run out of ideas, or ran up against a deadline. Both JS & JS were also very unhappy with the ending. SG disagreed with the critics, describing to us her reading of the book and its ending as a poignant reminder that try as we might, we can’t play God. Sara and Brian tried to save one child by creating another, but their plans were changed overnight by events completely out of their control.

Jodi Picoult: bio, reviews at BookBrowse
Jodi Picoult Interview with Picoult from
Picoult’s web site has a podcast, a radio interview about My Sister’s Keeper in addition to information about all her books.    
  For more articles on Picoult and her books, try Infotrac Onefile, available at the library, or from home (with a Minuteman Library Network card).
According to an “Author Read-alike” article in Novelist by Kaite Mediatore, if you like Jodi Picoult’s books, you might also want to try the following authors and titles. (Novelist is a Reader’s Advisory database available online at the Library, or with a Minuteman Library Network card on any Internet connection.)  
  Chris Bohjalian, Past the Bleachers
  Jacquelyn Mitchard, A Theory of Relativity
  Luanne Rice, Home Fires
  Ann Hood, Properties of Water
  Sue Miller, While I Was Gone

I Don’t Know How She Does It: 8/9/07

I Don't Know How She Does It The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother
A Novel by Allison Pearson

After an energetic discussion about Pearson’s novel, most of us agreed with B’s suggestion that a more accurate title title would be “She Can’t Do It.”  JS and HF did attest to the large doses of truth in the book.  However, none of us thinks that a person can reasonably expect to succeed at being at the top of a high-stakes cut-throat business AND be a hands-on parent AND a loving and attentive spouse.

We did talk about whether feminism implies that women should be able to do all of these things at once. This writer firmly believes that whatever feminism may be, men have never been able to do all of these things simultaneously and successfully, and the principle of equality dictates that women can’t either. Having limited time, energy and talent (being human) means making choices about how to spend them.

For this night’s discussion, we were lucky to have 3 men and 5 women, including 3 retired working mothers, 1 working mother, 1 stay-at-home father, and 3 single people with no children.

CD enjoyed the characters and the humor; MG was frustrated by the stressful situations, but enjoyed the black humor; JS called this “a book of truth — I lived it.”

B called it a tragic story; HF found it funny and true, with Kate Reddy’s childhood experiences explaining a great deal about her drive; L was struck by Kate Reddy’s greedy whining and lamented the too-tidy conventional ending.

GC did not enjoy the humor; DS knows the life of a working mother first hand, and her response was to say to Kate: “get over yourself.”

We talked about the difference between choosing to be a working mother and having to be a working mother just to survive. What are our expectations about the level of comfort and convenience we must have?

CD saw many stereotypes in the book, particularly the male characters, who were all dependent on women to function properly.

An excellent book for discussion, whether or not you admire the story.

Allison Pearson – An Interview with the author at Allison Pearson
Daily Mail Pearson’s Daily Mail columns
“Behind the Book” at Anchor Books
Pearson tells the story of how she came to write the book.
Book cover - UK version  
Related titles… The Nanny Diaries

Bridget Jones’s Diary
The Bitch in the House: 26 women tell the truth about sex, solitude, work, motherhood, and marriagePerfect Madness: Motherhood in the age of anxiety
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