My Sister’s Keeper is a keeper

Jodi Picoult’s novel, My Sister’s Keeper, is the story of Anna Fitzgerald, a 13-year-old girl who was conceived solely as bone marrow match for her sister, Kate, a victim of a rare form of leukemia. Since her birth, Anna has provided Kate countless chances at life, first as a donor of stem cells from her umbilical cord, then bone marrow throughout childhood, and at the opening of the novel, on the cusp of kidney donation. The problem is, this time Anna doesn’t want to go through invasive poking and prodding once again.

My Sister’s Keeper chronicles Anna’s internal and external battles as she confronts her family by filing for medical emancipation. Picoult hooks the reader with a thought-provoking prologue with resonates with the reader: “I did not kill my sister. She did it all on her own. Or at least this is what I tell myself.” Despite such cold introductions, Picoult has a unique ability to develop strong, full portraits of her characters; they are anything but mere caricatures.

Picoult’s technique shines in her oddly-structured novel. Each chapter is written in the point of view of the various characters, from Anna’s lawyer to her long-suffering mother. At first, the carousel of changing narrators disrupts the continuity and flow of the story, which results in some incongruity. Once the reader gets the hang of Picoult’s method of using distinct fonts, this inventive technique manages to skillfully accommodate the varying voices to create deep, realistic characters.

In this story, the conflict isn’t as simple as good versus bad; each side has its case and the reader is inevitably torn in the ethical battle that ensues. My Sister’s Keeper is rife with moving language that can err on the cheesy side at times, but ultimately succeeds in delivering a heart-wrenching narrative. Picoult’s novel concludes with a tearjerker that leaves readers reeling, yet settled with a sense of tidily tied-up loose ends-a rare treat for most.

Hannah Bae can be contacted at