“Handle with Care” – by Jodi Picoult

When I first read Picoult, it was “My Sister’s Keeper”, a book as touching and fresh as it was hurtful and sad. She wrote with such delicacy and yet with such carelessness that you couldn’t help yourself but relate to every single character, not because you loved them or hated them, but because you understood them. Yes, I think Picoult’s strongest trait is making her readers ‘understand’ her different characters, whether it is a mother struggling to care for her sick child, or a sibling so full of love yet so longful for half of her parents’ care and love that is given to the ‘other special child’; in the end, they are all members of a family struggling in their own way to keep it going, to keep the family going.

True, there is a deja-vu in each of her books (the two books that I’ve read so far anyway) that starts to be tiresome and feels outdated. A child with special medical needs, parents struggling to meet those needs with love and help of today’s medicine, a sibling or two whose understanding is beginning to see an end and who struggles on their own with the feeling of being left apart, and suddenly, money becomes something they cannot ignore and that is beginning to rip them apart.

The different narratives of each character takes you from a mother’s heart to a father’s concerns to a sister’s fatigue. Strangely, the main child in question the whole novel revolves around does not have a voice until the end. And in that whole going back and forth, you are submerged with all the perspectives and words, all of them unique, that you lose track of what is right or wrong. Indeed, what is right or wrong when it is the life of a child that is at stake? Someone that you love so much that you could die for – or could you?

Is it wrong to sue your best friend for wrong medical practice if that law suit could, in the end, bring you the money that is necessary to support your child a bit longer? Is it right to tell in front of the jury ‘and’ in front of your child that you would have had the choice of an abortion, assuming your child will understand your true feelings that abortion would never have been a choice? Is it wrong to want more care and love from your parents even if you’re not sick?

Do the means justify the end?

Once again, Picoult succeeds in giving different voices to represent this one child. Once again, she has shown us the not-so-normal life of a family and managed to draw a few tears from us along the way. Yet, it is with the same narrative style, the same general issue, the same structure. Is it too much asking as a reader if we want a bit of a change for once?  I thought, for once, that a good reader needed to make readers want to read more of her books, not less.


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