Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Review: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister's Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
423 pages
published: 2004
2 of 5 stars

For an upcoming book club I needed to read a book by Jodi Picoult, and my friend Michelle very obligingly brought over 3 for me to choose from. I was worried when I read the backs of these books - not one interested me in the slightest. So, I picked the one most highly recommended by Michelle and started.

I was immediately surprised by how interesting it was, and how involved I became. It quickly got to the point where I couldn't put it down. I was loving it! The book was amazing me with its honestly and rawness. The subject was controversial and heart rending. I enjoyed how it cycled through the points-of-view of the main characters. It was fascinating and disconcerting that the character whose actions and decisions I agreed with the least was the character whose chapters made me cry. I didn't agree with her, but I sympathized and understood her motivations.

The book was moving forward, the characters and the plot was developing. Near the end, new and surprising information came out. Everything was going great! (From a story point of view, life actually really sucked for the poor characters.) I was getting ready to add this book to a list of favorites, to admit I was totally wrong about my presumptions and attitudes towards books like this....and then the author dropped the ball.

I've read a few reviews, and most people think the ending was bad, weird, shocking...but it was worse than that. It was lazy. The author took the easy way out. Even in stories, some inevitable things are...inevitable. It would have been harder to write the end where the characters have to go through with their decisions and the consequences. It would have been traumatizing to watch someone you love die because it was what they wanted, and to watch a child learn to define herself when the reason she existed was gone. It would have been difficult to write about how that family would, or would not, put themselves back together when the center they all lived around no longer held everyone together. Instead, Picoult whipped out an unlikely and implausible ending, throwing in a insupportable miracle for good measure.

Whatever. How do these manuscripts get past editors?

Final review: 95% of this book was amazing. The end was impossible to swallow, and I can't get the horrible taste out of my mouth whenever I think about the book.

Note to Remember: If there is going to be horrible part of a book that you write, don't make it the end. The ending is what people take away and remember your book by.


  1. I simply could not agree with you more than I do right now! Sometimes I let the lazy endings slide, and sometimes they simply screw up any enjoyment for me. Ann Patchett is another author besides Jodi Picoult that is guilty of this.

    Why don't some authors just sit on a perfectly good (yet unfinished) manuscript until they have the time or inclination to follow their plots/thoughts to the end?

    Why do we let ourselves get so invested in characters when the author is really in control and can pull the rug out from under us?

    I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as you did, and I'm sorry for the letdown ending. Hey, you could always write fan fiction (you know, re-write the part you want, and maybe a sequel). Just kidding.

  2. I'm wondering if some writers think shock value is a measure of quality and creativity. What else could justify some of these endings? It might think they ran out of time...but in the case of this last book, it would have been better if it had ended early and the whole decision and death scene had been unwritten. It would have felt truncated, but at least not false.

    I could see a manuscript like that being a draft. Where the author got tired or overwhelmed and got lazy. But that's what writers' groups, or certainly, editors are for. Somebody should have had the guts to tell her it sucked!

  3. I guess I really need to read this one! Just to see what you guys are talking about! I started it a long time ago and I didn't like it much to begin with, or wasn't in the mood or something, so I bagged it.