I watched My Sisters Keeper years ago on TV and didn’t really pay attention. I didn’t really think it was very good.
Recently I came across the book by Jodi Picoult on my amazon store and I thought, ‘why not, I’ve always heard the book is better.’
And believe me, never before has the name of my blog been more true.
I won’t say that this book is perfect. It isn’t the best book I have ever read. There are large chunks of the book that I am no
t interested in, namely being the Campbel/ Julia thread. I don’t really see the point, I don’t really care, so what I am going to focus on is the family dynamic and the portrayal of grief.
This is a book about grief. It is about living with a death before it has happened. There are loads of books about death that make lasting and deep comments. But grief, that is a whole different ball game. In the epilogue Kate’s first words in the whole book as narrator are ‘There should be a statute of limitation on grief.’ She goes on to describe quotas. It is interesting because the first time we hear the voice of Kate as narrator is when she is discussing something that she never thought that SHEwould experience. The book beforehand is a mixture of anger, pain and a strong sense of waiting for loss and when this does happen it doesn’t happen. The family have been preparing themselves to lose Kate. This shows the brilliance of tne writing. This is a book about grief, not of death. We are not in Anna’s narrative when the car crash that takes her life happens, and we do not hear the story from Kate until she is no longer the one people are grieving over, not until she is the one who feels the pain.
This is one of the many reasons that the book is so much better than the movie. Forget how they aged all of the characters down apart from Kate so that Hollywood can still have its teenage sexual encounter moment. Forget that they make the family richer, that they have more family and therefore more support, or the fact that Jesse is a functioning part of the family. No the worst crime the movie makers made was killing Kate instead of Anna. This is a crime because it takes away a great twist, a horrifying moment which is in reality why many of us read and watch films. But also because it just makes the film boring, which in any creative writing class I have taken, is the worst sin. Killing Anna shows the true injustice of the world which most of the characters in the book, especially Sara, think is Kate being ill.
This book to movie translation also suffers from the way the narrative is expressed. The movie does try to copy but reading someones thoughts is very different to them being portrayed by the occasional voice over. I imagine that it is the interview they are giving afterward, when they are forced to explain themselves. On stage I would imagine a chair and the character, alone, pleading almost to be understood. The ongoing question of the book always being what would YOU do.
And this book shows truly how far people can go to protecting the ones they love. This is shown especially through Sara who is far harsher in the book. I remembered reading the line ‘I wonder if it hurts as much as having your six year old stare you in the eye and say she hates you.’ This summaries what Sara will do for Kate. She will risk the relationship she has with Anna, cementing the idea that Anna is no more than body parts. I think in the film Sara comes across as quite reasonable however in the book it is simply not the case. In the film the slap she gives Anna is light, barely makes a sound. In the book, it is described as leaving finger prints on her face. The true level of inequality between Sara’s children is finally revealed.
I read this book in pretty much a weekend and I thought the portrayal of a family who are stretched in grief is perfect. I love Brian, I think Jesse is a little extreme but compliments the situations perfectly. I love Anna. I read this book knowing the twist. Knowing that Kate wanted to die and wanted Anna to refuse to be a donor. I love that you can feel through the very words that Anna is in conflict to her very core. I think this book is extremely clever and would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind a good cry over a book every now and then.
(My brothers, I don’t have a sister so those two will have to do!)