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I got this book out of curiosity: LibraryThing listed it as the top UnSuggestion for both Rasselas and The Stainless Steel Rat, so I wanted to test the system. (This was before I had read Blue Like Jazz, which I got for the same reason, and duly hated.)

The basic plot of the book is revealed in the first chapter: Anna, aged 13, gets a lawyer to help her stop her parents make her donate one of her kidneys to save her sister Kate, 16, to the bewilderment and confusion of their parents. That much is a poignant and engaging story, and I ploughed on to find out how it would end.


Unfortunately there was too much cuteness in the story to keep my enthusiasm. Picoult really does lay it on thick, by the trowelful. I list the irritating factors here:

1) The girls' mother is herself a lawyer and represents herself in the court hearing. She is probably the best conveyed and most credible character in the book, but I found this vanishingly improbable behaviour. The poor woman is caring for a dying child and hasn't practiced law in over a decade (and no indication that she ever practiced family law). Yet she and her husband never seem to have discussed hiring a professional advocate.

2) Anna's lawyer and her court-appointed guardian ad litem are still getting over their teenage break-up fifteen years earlier. I accept that some people who have their hearts broken as teenagers take a while getting over it, but in my humbe opinion most have got over it by their mid-thirties. What's more, this is the first time they have spoken since then because in the busy world of family lawyers in Providence, RI, they somehow have never encountered each other before professionally. Rhode Island must be bigger than I had imagined.

3) Kate goes to a dance with a cute fellow patient who then romantically dies a couple of days later, the stress of the evening having proved too much for him.

4) Anna's lawyer has a grand mal seizure at a crucial point in the proceedings, even though his dog which has been trained to warn him when he is about to have a seizure has been vigorously warning him that he is about to have a seizure.

5) Despite the fact that Anna has been a first-person viewpoint character off and on throughout the book, it is only in the climactic scene that we discover that Kate asked her to go to the lawyer in the first place because she is fed up of being ill and wants to die. This revelation fatally eroded the credibility of Anna's characterisation for me.

6) It is therefore almost a relief when Anna is killed in a car accident shortly after winning her court case and her kidney is used to save Kate's life anyway.

So basically I started off wanting to like this book, but found it more and more difficult to do so; and the twists at the end killed any mild whim I might have had to recommend it to other people.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 28th, 2010 08:05 am (UTC)
Those seizure-dogs do exist
Mar. 28th, 2010 08:51 am (UTC)
I was going to say that. Other than that, Nicholas has just confirmed my gut feeling that this was not a book I was remotely interested in reading (my mother read it for her book group and was unimpressed).
Mar. 28th, 2010 10:50 am (UTC)
6) It is therefore almost a relief when Anna is killed in a car accident shortly after winning her court case and her kidney is used to save Kate's life anyway.

I am so happy I have never read this book.
Mar. 28th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC)
It is therefore almost a relief when Anna is killed in a car accident shortly after winning her court case and her kidney is used to save Kate's life anyway.

Based on your early synopsis I guessed the twist ending was going to be she wins, then volunteers the kidney, having made her point about owning her body. That ending is worse.
Mar. 28th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading and writing up as I can now sound as though I have read it with out having to go through the pain.
Mar. 28th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
Haven't read the book, but did see the film last month (at the community film society that ias and I run - one of our regulars suggested it when we were programming the Spring season).

While the film still has almost all of the faults that you list above (exceptions: #2, because the character of the court-appointed guardian doesn't appear in the film; #6, because Kate dies and Anna survives), it was a better film than those faults might suggest. I certainly wasn't expecting a great deal from what I assumed would be another mawkish-yet-heartwarming Hollywood melodrama, but I was pleasantly surprised (mostly by the performances of Breslin and Vassilieva).
Mar. 28th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you for confirming that I don't want to read this book. Not that I really thought I did anyway, but your reasons for disliking it sound like things that would piss me off.

Rhode Island must be bigger than I had imagined.

I've been there. It's not.
Mar. 29th, 2010 02:36 am (UTC)
You made (6) up, right? If not, the only excuse is that it's based on a true story.
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:04 am (UTC)
No, I didn't; and no, it isn't!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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