I’ve just finished reading the novel from which the movie My Sister’s Keeper was adapted. The book, which had the same title (of course) was by Jodi Picoult.
Jodi Picoult was introduced to me by the very cinema where I saw the trailer of My Sister’s Keeper. And then her name was offered to me again by one of my friends who also loves to read. It actually took me a long time to get my hands on a book of hers, well, on My Sister’s Keeper. And it took me longer than that to actually pick my brain for decent thoughts about it.
On the Novel: Style, Content, etc.
Before reading the novel, I was already marveling at the idea of the story partly because I’ve seen it in the motion picture version and partly because it was the first of its kind that I’d ever heard. I deduced Picoult isn’t your ordinary writer. She’s got something else. A very visible heart, I guess. A heart that dictates the words more than her mind does. And a wide, wide range of thoughts on life.
While reading the novel, the next thing I marveled at was the amount of information Picoult was able to incorporate in her story. I’ve read a lot of Grishams so I can somehow say that law and fiction is a palatable combination for me as much as it’s understandable. But it was the first time that I saw both law and medicine together in a story. And if Picoult never even got to the threshold of either practice, then she’s one hell of a researcher. I was both annoyed and amazed at the facts she was able to research and include. Annoyed because, well, there were too much words that simply flew out the window before I managed to pronounce them. And amazed because these were words you’d really have to look for.
I also liked the way it was written in the first perspective point of view of each character. I always say I have reservations against the first person style. Like, if you write in that way, then you make sure your narrator is either omnipresent or omniscient enough. But this time, under Picoult’s hands, I got the best first person story ever. I didn’t have to wonder how the others were feeling over the entire story and conflict. And yes, maybe it was a bit difficult because I had to keep in mind who the narrator was supposed to be in a specific part of the story. But still, in a story like this one, you’ve got to know what each person was thinking. And that’s just well taken-care of.
I remember reading a movie review written about My Sister’s Keeper, about how the review-writer thought the film lacked enough transitory excitement because there were simple fade-to-blacks and fade-ins, as if the director didn’t think about how to do the storytelling with transitions. Well, I guess it was exactly the way the novel was written. One paragraph has Anna telling you about what’s happening at present, then in the next paragraph, talking about a past incident. That’s without transition, too. Like fade-to-black and fade-in. It gets irritating sometimes, because you have to keep your head into what you’re reading or you’d get lost in the stories and anecdotes told without a seeming pattern. But effective nonetheless.
Movie and Book
(WARNING: Spoilers may be included.)
I could say ‘movie vs. book’ or probably use ‘or’, ‘/’, or even a ‘-‘. But no, I’ve said before that I loved the movie and I’m not anywhere near taking it back. I can only merely compare, wish there are things that didn’t happen, and voice out my opinions. By that, I mean that as much as I love the movie, I still wish there weren’t parts or characters cancelled out or changed.
Judge DeSalvo as a male in the novel but was portrayed as a female in the movie, Sara’s sister Suzanne’s name was changed to Kelly, the more focus given to Kate and Taylor’s going out–all of these are forgivable alterations. I’ve had a lot of Harry Potters to understand that.
But Jesse being an ignored dyslexic kid in the movie but was actually a pyromaniac in the novel, I wish they didn’t change that. Someone from that family has to knock hard enough to be noticed in spite of Kate, and if Anna couldn’t do that then Jesse maybe could. I also wish they didn’t exclude Julia Romano and Campbell Alexander’s connection with her. I think there wasn’t a single important character in that movie who came in without a plausible reason. Campbell had to have that, which went beyond his being an epileptic, and Julia could have provided that. Lastly, I wished they didn’t erased Anna’s prowess at hockey because I thought it was the perfect metaphor for her character. As Sara said so, Anna always saves.
And then there’s the ending. Which I’m still working on right now and would have to wait for later. But I promise to make the most of it before I conclude.
Picoult’s characters will have you rocking back and forth and racking your heart on how you would feel toward them. That much I can say. I went constantly in conflict with myself and with my beliefs as I tried to understand and work my way around each person.
Sara. I don’t understand how a mother’s mind works. Maybe it really could make you do all the things Sara’s done, believe in all her beliefs, put Anna into all those painful surgeries for Kate to survive. Or maybe it won’t. That’s why I’m undecided whether I’d hate Sara or admire her potency. I could hate her for ignoring Jesse and using Anna just because she couldn’t let go of Kate. But then if she had let go before, then she wouldn’t have Anna. And everyone’s life wouldn’t change. So maybe I’d stick with something I’ve always believed in: that mothers have this tendency to love more the child that needs her most. Don’t tell me she could love every one of her children equally. She’s supposed to, but it doesn’t always work that way.
Brian. The firefighter through and through. I see a lot of my father in Brian Fitzgerald and maybe that’s why I like him so much. He’s there, both the beacon and the extinguisher. He’s as confused and conflicted as he is sure of the way out. I like him for that, too, although of course I wish he didn’t turn his back on Anna at trial. The kid could use one of her parents taking her side, too.
Jesse. At one point or another, there’s always a Jesse around. One who destroys because he couldn’t save. One who’s got more in him than what he lets meet your eye. His recollections in the novel aren’t the simple rants of some neglected kid, his are significances of just how much neglect a child can survive and forgive before they turn to the more harmful option of drawing attention to themselves through hatred. I would probably like it more if he was given a proper send-off, but I guess we could make do with him accepting his faults.
Julia. I’m partly irritated at the fact that Julia didn’t actually help out Anna, that her perspective of the child wasn’t even very different from the others. So why include her in the story at all? I won’t even be surprised if that’s the reason that the movie crew decided to leave her out. But Julia’s character had an effect over Campbell’s. She made him more humane and that helped because Anna’s case wasn’t as simply as an evidence-driven one.
Campbell. Well, he wasn’t the Campbell that Alec Baldwin portrayed. He made me happy that I read the book after I saw the movie. Because the difference was so striking it could’ve bordered on annoying. But he was very smart, very lawyerly, and very admirable. He was honest with several touches of lies. And I especially loved his witty retorts to those who ask him about the service dog Judge. I also admired the way he took care of Anna, which may be rude at some points but was very touching at others.
Kate. I don’t know what to feel about Kate. And I know that’s not the default attitude. You’ve got to be for her, siding with her, pitying her even for a while before you make your mind up about her. But I didn’t feel that. Yes, she was dying and that’s a very hard fact to deal with. But there were times when I felt like she was taking for granted the fact that her family was doing everything they could for her. I felt like she was being so much of a brat and a drat, feeling her way through her sickness, knowing it kills everyone around her. I didn’t feel enough of the weakness she was supposed to have. But I liked her having the last part of the book because I did expect that of everyone who grieved for Anna, Kate would do so the most.
Anna. For a thirteen-year-old, she sure had so much in her. She understood things the way others didn’t. In many ways, I hated losing her in the end of the novel (this is sooooo spoiling, sorry). But maybe it was what should really happen (I’ll explain why later). I liked Anna’s bravery, her wisdom, and the many lessons she’s taught us in terms of family and selflessness.
The very controversial ending, if I consider all the differing opinions about how the movie ended and how altered it was from the way the novel ended.
I’ve yet to find out why the director/screenplay writer decided to change the ending–meaning, why they chose Kate to die instead. But as for the book, I side with Picoult for letting Anna go instead.
If Anna didn’t die and she was medically emancipated and she decided to keep her kidney, nothing would prevent Kate’s death. I felt like if Kate died, Anna would live with two things: grief and guilt. Grief over losing her sister and guilt because even if she didn’t want to, she didn’t prevent what she could. And even if Anna gave a kidney and Kate still died, Anna would hate Sara forever because somehow, she’s likely to feel worn and used. And even if Anna gave a kidney and Kate lived, it would create a crack too deep for healing between them. There would be a whole lot of possibilities in exchange of Anna’s living. And each one of those would hurt everyone else, probably as much as Kate’s sickness did.
But Anna died and everyone grieved. Kate was taught the importance of the life her mother has stanchly fought for. Anna died and everything that hurt was erased, and even if it was replaced with a very hollow ache, the pain was bound to recede. Anna died and saved everyone else.
I wish I could write like Jodi Picoult–sensitive, thoughtful, heartfelt, and intelligent.
I have a sister, she’s younger than me, and thankfully we’re both healthy enough to live independently. Because I wouldn’t probably know what to do if I were Anna and she’s Kate, or if it’s the other way around.