Friday, September 25, 2009

"Handle with Care" by Jodi Picoult

This is the third book by Jodi Picoult that I have read. In all three books Picoult deals with a situation within a family that is controversial and hard to view in black and white. For this novel Charlotte and Sean O'Keafe have two daughters, Amelia who is 12 at the start and Willow who is five at the beginning of the novel. Willow has OI or brittle bones and has already suffered sixty some breaks in her short life and in all likelihood will continue to suffer breaks for her whole life. Amelia feels overshadowed and unwanted and develops an eating disorder as well as cutting herself to deal with her emotions. The family has financial problems and as a result of a disastrous vacation to Disney World end up seeing a lawyer and deciding to sue their OB for malpractice stating that if they had known about Willow's condition earlier in the pregnancy they would have terminated it. This decision to sue along with the stress of having a child with special needs tears the family apart.

Well written
Tells the story from multiple POV
Deals with subject matter that brings up a lot of issues about society and law and medicine

Some of the characters felt like stereotypes
Some of the meetings between characters felt too forced or convenient
Although I guessed what the ending was going to be (not going to spoil it for other readers) the way it happened didn't feel totally genuine

Thoughts on the novel:
One of the main emotions I felt through reading this book was a sense of relief that my own children were not born with this disorder, I don't even want to imagine what it would be like to not be able to hug one of my children without worrying that he or she might break or to have to constantly be on guard for any type of hazard. It gave me a real appreciation of parents who live and care for children with not just brittle bones but many other conditions.

While the story is told from multiple points of view, each of the characters is telling the story to Willow. It isn't until the end of the novel that we get to hear Willow's POV. I liked that each character got a different font for their segments, it was almost like putting a different personality in with the type.

One issue I have with Picoult's novels (the three I've read- The Tenth Circle and My Sister's Keeper as well as this one) is that while she makes the mother human and flawed she also makes her hard to sympathize with. Each of these mothers makes tough decisions, but in caring for one child (in two of the stories) another child is pushed into the background and almost ignored. When Amelia's eating disorder and cutting are finally discovered it isn't because her parents wake up and notice, it is because another person brings it to their attention. She has been crying out for help for months and they finally have to stop and consider her.

Whenever I read about a medical malpractice lawsuit I always wonder if the main purpose is to get money, either because the plaintiff actually needs it due to negligence or simply because he or she thinks they can get it. Would more money really solve all the problems and issues the family or person are having? If he or she had expended that much energy in another direction could a similar result have been achieved? Do all countries have so much of an issue with lawsuits or is this an American thing?

While the story made me think and touched me, I never got as engrossed in it as I usually do in the book that I am reading. I wasn't sure I even cared what happened to this family. Of the three Picoult novels I have read this was not my favorite, but it was still a good read.

1 comment:

  1. very good to know! i have 2 sisters who love her books, but i still have yet to pick one up...