Oof, it's been a while, hasn't it? I have actually read a couple of books since my last review, but I've been lazy about the corresponding blog updates.
So what's it to be - fiction or non-fiction?
I think I'll go with the fiction option, because it's fresher in my mind. (I marked lots of pages in the other book to aid with the review process, so hopefully I'll be able to write something coherent about my rare foray into the world of non-fiction at some point. Any month now).
I ordered My Sister's Keeper (by Jodi Picoult) after reading about it on the Womens' Bioethics Project blog. The story revolves around a pair of teenage sisters. The older girl has a rare form of leukemia, and her younger sister Anna was conceived specifically as a genetically matched "saviour sibling". Although the initial plan was only to transplant Anna's umbilical cord blood stem cells into her sister, the years that followed have entailed endless blood transfusions, not to mention a bone marrow transplant. Now, Anna's sister needs a kidney, and everyone assumes that Anna will once again rise to the occasion. But instead she decides to sue her parents for the rights to her own body.
The author chose to use multiple narrators, which was probably the only way to effectively drive the complex and multi-layered storyline. We hear from Anna herself; both her parents; her older brother; her lawyer; and a social worker involved in the case - everyone, in fact, except for the sick older sister, an interesting omission. No-one is completely in the wrong, no-one is completely in the right, and the decisions and conflicts faced by the parents in particular are agonising.
But then, at the very end, after we've heard every possible side of the story, after the trial's verdict, after a wonderful twist, and after my own empathy was pulled in every possible direction, the final chapter is a total cop-out. The ending pissed me off more than any book I can remember, probably because the author had done such a great job of sucking me in until I was completely emotionally invested in the characters. She chose such an easy way out. Rather than having any of the characters actually face up to what was happening and make the final, heart-rending yet necessary decision, she went with one of the worst examples of Deus Ex Machina I've ever had the misfortune to come across. I almost threw the book across the room.
So there you have it. The book is 99% wonderful, with the final 1% being a huge pile of crap and a terrible return for the emotion I'd invested. Amazingly enough I'd still recommend reading it, because the vast majority of the book is so strong. Just be prepared for the frustration and anger at the end. Oh, and try to borrow the book or buy it second-hand if at all possible; why spend all that money on a nice shiny new copy that may end up being thrown down the loo or off a bus?
Mermaid, I'll be reading your book next. I promise not to throw it anywhere.