THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Addition: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

“Every expectant parent will tell you that they don’t want a perfect baby, just a healthy one. Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe would have asked for a healthy baby, too, if they’d been given the choice. Instead, their lives are made up of sleepless nights, mounting bills, the pitying stares of “luckier” parents, and maybe worst of all, the what-ifs. What if their child had been born healthy? But it’s all worth it because Willow is, well, funny as it seems, perfect. She’s smart as a whip, on her way to being as pretty as her mother, kind, brave, and for a five-year-old an unexpectedly deep source of wisdom. Willow is Willow, in sickness and in health.” Everything changes, though, after a series of events forces Charlotte and her husband to confront the most serious what-ifs of all. What if Charlotte should have known earlier of Willow’s illness? What if things could have been different? What if their beloved Willow had never been born? To do Willow justice, Charlotte must ask herself these questions and one more. What constitutes a valuable life?

I haven’t read a Jodi Picoult book in a long time but when my friend recommended this book at our book club I thought I would give it a try!

This story follows the O’Keefe  family. When Sean met Charlotte, she was a single Mum to Amelia. After they marry, it takes them a long time to conceive Willow. She is precious and greatly loved. But she has a disability – she suffers from a severe form of brittle bone disease. She is born with 7 broken bones, and will spend the rest of her life watching others do things she would love to do but can’t in case she breaks a bone. Life is a strain for them – money is tight because of medical expenses and everything is a hazard. After a trip to Disney World things start to go wrong for the family. Willow falls down and suffers a serious break. Amelia forgot the letter that explains Willow’s condition so Sean & Charlotte are accused of abuse, meaning Willow is left alone in the hospital for the night while Amelia is taken into care. It takes several hours for the situation to be sorted and Sean is left humiliated and furious. He decides to pursue legal action against the hospital but this won’t be successful. However, instead they are offered the chance to sue for wrongful birth – meaning had they been told early enough in the pregnancy about Willow’s condition they would have aborted her. Sean isn’t sure he can do that, but Charlotte decides they need the money to help support the family and pursues the lawsuit. However, this ruptures the family, with Sean filing for divorce; it leads Amelia to self-harm and develop an eating disorder and it ruptures friendships – the person who should have spotted Willow’s condition in the womb and the person Charlotte is suing was her best friend Piper. The biggest problem with the lawsuit however is this: Willow is going to be told they wish she hadn’t been born. How can this turn out well?

I was saying to a friend a couple of months ago that I haven’t read a book that has moved me for a long time. However, this book has done just that. I read this a few weeks ago and I’m still thinking about it. I find Jodi Picoult books do that. Years ago I read Nineteen Minutes when it was released, and I still think about this sometimes. What would I have done if my child had been the shooter? This book had the same effect on me – what would I have done? How would I cope with all the broken bones? How would I cope with the rising medical bills? How would I deal with the worry/stress/anxiety? Reading through this book, I don’t think I would have made the decisions that Charlotte made – but then I’ve never been there and I don’t have children so how would I know?

It’s difficult to describe what I felt reading this book. It’s not a happy read. In fact, it is quite depressing. Yet it is a compelling read. I had to keep going. I had to know what was going to happen. I didn’t like Charlotte and didn’t really like Sean either. They weren’t a unit and their girls needed them to be. Yet I loved Willow. She was sweet, clever and endearing. I felt for her as she faced so much pain – both physical and emotional. The more I read, the more I learnt about Willow’s condition and about the malpractice lawsuit. It was a fascinating and heartbreaking read.

I didn’t like the ending at all. I didn’t want the lawsuit to go the way it did but for me that wasn’t the worst thing for me. For me, the final chapter spoilt the book. They got so far, things were improving for the family and then Picoult writes that chapter. It felt me cross to be honest – I felt like it was a let down and perhaps a cop-out.

I’m conflicted about this book. I enjoyed it, yet I didn’t enjoy it. There were many issues in this book to deal with – which I think Picoult did. To be honest, I don’t think every storyline was needed – and perhaps the eating disorder and self-harm resolution was a bit unrealistic – a friend “happened” to notice her being sick. That said – Willow seeing Amelia self-harm and then trying it herself and nearly dying was heart-wrenching; yet had the friend not noticed Sean & Charlotte wouldn’t have realised what Amelia was doing.

I’ve rated this 4 out of 5 because this book did move me. I’m still thinking it through. The story was interesting and did keep me gripped. It is a sad story with a horrible ending but I will be recommending this book to people – although perhaps I might warn them that this isn’t a cheerful book.

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What a lovely book. Another Jodi Picoult book, My Sister’s Keeper was not a let down at all.

Amazon synopsis:

“A major decision about me is being made, and no ones bothered to ask the one person who most deserves it to speak her opinion.” The only reason Anna was born was to donate her cord blood cells to her older sister. And though Anna is not sick, she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since she was a child. Anna was born for this purpose, her parents tell her, which is why they love her even more. But now that she has reached an age of physical awareness, she can’t help but long for control over her own body and respite from the constant flow of her own blood seeping into her sister’s veins. And so she makes a decision that for most would be too difficult to bear, at any time and at any age. She decides to sue her parents for the rights to her own body.

I had read a few reviews that stated the reader’s did not enjoy this book, or did not like the ending, but for me, I was not let down at all. This is another tough issue that Picoult has chosen to write about, and again, she has had success.

The story follows the Fitzgerald family. Jesse has gone off the rails, Kate has leukaemia and Anna was a “designer baby” created to help Kate. Controversial topics are discussed, from being an organ donor, to parents making medical decisions for their children to acting out by arson. Picoult discusses these issues so well and sensitively, I don’t think anyone could fault her.

In terms of her medical knowledge, Picoult seems to have read up and properly researched the issue of leukaemia in different forms and was not afraid to use medical language confidently. I know very little about the disease but what was written I was able to follow.

The ending was incredibly sad, but I liked it. I think it fitted with the story perfectly. I did not guess it at all, and there were other twists in the book that although I tried to guess, I didn’t get right, and again, I was not disappointed with them. I felt they just added and enhanced the story.

My favourite character was probably Jesse, the eldest child who went off the rails. I felt I connected with him to a certain level, but that might have been because we both like fire – although him more than me – and sometimes we both just feel invisible. His acting out was for attention and his sister’s illness broke him, and that really moved me.

I recommend this book strongly.

8/10

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This is only the second of Picoult’s novels that I have read, but like Nineteen Minutes, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Amazon synopsis:

The discovery of a dead infant in an Amish barn shakes Lancaster County to its core. But the police investigation leads to a more shocking disclosure: circumstantial evidence suggests that eighteen-year-old Katie Fisher, an unmarried Amish woman believed to be the newborn’s mother, took the child’s life. When Ellie Hathaway, a disillusioned big city attorney, comes to Paradise, Pennsylvania, to defend Katie, two cultures collide and, for the first time in her high profile career, Ellie faces a system of justice very different from her own. Delving deep into the world of those who live ‘plain’, Ellie must find a way to reach Katie on her terms. As she unravels a tangled murder case, Ellie also looks deep within to confront her own fears and desires when a man from her past comes back into her life.

I was completely hooked by this book from the opening page. The story is full of love, court room drama, murder and faith. I have no idea if what Picoult writes about the Amish is correct, but it certainly opened my eyes a little bit. I had a go at guessing the end, which I got wrong, but on reflection I should have seen coming. However, that does not affect the story at all. I found myself loving the characters, sympathising with them, wishing I had some of that Amish peace and thinking about the story when I wasn’t reading the book. In fact, I am still reflecting now. I was even getting angry at the prosecution in the court! I felt like I was there watching, I love a book where I feel like I’m involved. I loved the ending. Highlight to view spoiler: I had initially thought that Katie’s father did the killing, but it turned out to be her mother, who was just trying to hold onto the only child she had left. I found that just so touching. There was excitment on virtually every page. I can only highly recommend this book.

9/10

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