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VINE VOICEon 6 March 2005
I have only recently discovered Jodi Picoult, in fact the last book I read was The Pact written by her. I was so impressed by that book that I didn't believe this book could be as good; it was good to be proved wrong. From just these two books I think Jodi Picoult has jumped to the top of my favourite authors list. Like The Pact, the writing style is one that I haven't enjoyed in the past where each chapter is from the point of view of a different person or in a different time but which Jodi Picoult is proving is a useful tool to provide the full information for a story.
This story is also a gritty issue where the parents have a third child, genetically selected to be a donor for her sister with cancer. I've heard in the news about families who want to do this, but haven't really thought what happens beyond the birth of the child. Whereas this books takes you through that journey where Anna is repeatedly in hospitable throughout her thirteen years to provide donations for her sister. Her sister now needs a kidney and Anna has had enough.
Having finished the book I still don't know which side of the argument I stand on and when I think of the reactions of the characters they are so well written I honestly can't say I would behave any differently if I was in any of their positions.
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VINE VOICEon 29 April 2005
A short while ago, I was asked what my favourite 3 books ever were...because i've read so many books of differing genres I found this a difficult one...until I read this. Without doubt it's my number 1 book so far.
Following the harrowing and heart-breaking family life of Sara and Brian, whose son Jesse is a tearaway, daughter Kate has been diagnosed with terminal leukaemia and youngest daughter Anna - conceived through IVF to be a genetic match for her dying sister - has had enough. Since the second Anna was born she's donated blood, bone marrow and more to her sister without being consulted and the final straw is the assumption that she'll give up a kidney to Kate as a last grasp at saving her life. Anna's a teenage girl who's always lived in her sister's shadow, decides to take her parents to court, for the rights to her own body.
Each chapter is written from a different perspective, which adds to the depth and complexity of this book. One moment I was sympathising with Anna and feeling shock at her mother's apparent callousness and biased love. The next, I found myself crying at Sara's love for her daughters and her feelings of utter helplessness in such a desperate situation. Each viewpoint shows a different angle to this awful dilemma and gives the novel the fullness and credibility it needed to do it justice.
This is a contentious issue and always will be, and Picoult has depicted the harrowing decisions and predicaments faced by families like this with great sensitivity.
I usually, once engrossed in a book, fly through the pages in a bid to reach the end. However, with this, it was so beautifully written I lingered over every word. Picoult's descriptive prose invokes such potent images and there are snippets in here, so simple in their metaphors or similes, that made me stop and think about my life and how fortunate I really am.
I went into this with no expectations - I read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebould and anticipated a torrent of tears which never actually came. Well they did with this - I found myself completely moved by this beautifully written book.
Not only is the storyline gripping - right to the last page - but the prose is quality. Not a book to read if you're after a barrel of laughs (although I did chuckle at the lawyer sometimes! There is humour in dark places, after all) but a thought-provoking, heart-breaking, truly wonderful novel.
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on 28 January 2005
I bought this book only because it was in the 3 for 2 sale at Waterstones, never having heard of it, or the author, before. Reading it got slightly uncomfortable at points - for one, the moral dilemma at the crux of the plot had me squirming because it's one of those situations you just don't wanna think about - secondly, characters take it in turn to narrate chapters, and though this generally works well, the fact they all use the same introspective reflective tone can get a bit eerie.
One review inside the cover says the book ends with a big twist, so I started trying to spot it from the start - no chance, it came totally out of nowhere. And when it finally turned up, it had me bawling my eyes out (I haven't cried at a book since I read "The Last Battle" (Chronicles of Narnia) at the age of about 8). Seriously, I cried for about 10 minutes, and I don't even have kids.
At the same time, the book isn't an emotional blackmail attempt using cliches as tear-jerkers, but simply, gently and originally written. It comments in a roundabout way on families, parenting, and growing up. I'm tempted to get hold of some more of the author's work, but I'm worried it won't live up to this one.
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on 17 April 2007
Nineteen Minutes sees the return of defense attorney Jordan McAfee (The Pact and Salem Falls) and Patrick DuCharme (detective from Perfect Match) and is another example of Picoult's skillful psychological and social insight.

The protagonist this time is Peter Houghten, a 17-year-old high school student who has endured years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of his classmates. Even his best friend, Josie Cormier has succumbed to peer pressure and is now part of the gang that instigates the abuse. One final act of bullying sends him over the edge and he commits an act of violence that will forever change the lives of the town's residents.

As per the Picoult formula, the town is small where many lives intertwine and the superior court judge assigned to hear the Houghten case is the mother of Josie Cormier, who witnessed the act. Josie is emotionally fragile and the strain of the court case poses a realistic threat to her relationship with her mother, Alex. She claims she can't remember what happened in the last few minutes of Peter's rampage and Peter's parents compound the tension and pressure in the narrative by ceaselessly examining the past to see what they might have done as parents to compel their son to such extremes.

The overriding theme of the novel is the question that do we ever really know the people closest to us? However, it poses more questions than that - what does it mean to be different? Is it ever OK for a victim to strike back? And who really has the right to judge someone else? This is Picoult's most honest, straightforward and meaningful novel yet - if only she could stretch beyond her currently rather contrived plots, she would be a truly great commentator on modern times.
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We've read about too many school shootings. These are intensely sad events as young lives are ended and harmed while sickening fear is permanently released to further separate communities. We all blame the parents for being so clueless.

I wasn't sure I wanted to read a long novel about such an event. But I'm glad I did. Nineteen Minutes takes the bare facts of such an awful day and helps us see the whole experience from every perspective. And the book does so with a kind and gentle heart.

This shifting of the balance of our perceptions is accomplished by several well-performed techniques including many narrators (different students, three parents, the police, the defense attorney, and his wife), connections among the characters, and multiple back stories that reach literally into the womb. The book's theme is far more universal than school shootings: How we grow away from our real selves and the damage that does to us and others.

I was very impressed by the way that Ms. Picoult viewed every character with mostly sympathy, even when you might think of them as being unsympathetic from the facts. Each character is also mildly funny. She doesn't let the tragedy pull us too far away from the realities of everyday life. It's an extraordinary storytelling gift.

If you are like me, you'll probably feel that your faith in people is increased by reading this story rather than the reverse. That reaction also surprised me.

No matter what your age is I think you'll find this book will draw you back into those turbulent teen years when being popular meant way too much. It'll be an intense and self-revealing visit.

Bravo, Ms. Picoult! This is a remarkable book.

Highly recommended.
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on 30 March 2005
I, like many others before me, bought this book to fill up the '3 for 2' offer from Waterstones. However, unlike my first two choices ('The American Boy' and 'Snobs: A Novel'), this one managed to captivate me, drawing me into its web of moral dilemmas and familial issues.
The plot is doubtless one which has been addressed in many books of medical and legal ethics, and having read it, I can certainly see why. The issue about genetically selecting a child in embryonic form is one which has caused, and will continue to cause many debates surrounding it. However, 'My Sister's Keeper' goes beyond the initial stages of concern (it's morally unfair on the remaining embyros that die a cruel death in a petri dish...), addressing the questions that arise for a thirteen year old girl. Did her parents actually want her? What about the miracle of creation? Things I had never considered, such as the answers a parent would give when their genetically selected child asks "where babies come from".
And then the question of medical emancipation. This novel is based in the USA, where people are not under the obligation to help any other living being (makes you wonder, doesn't it?), and due to this clause in the American constitution, children are allowed to seek medical emancipation from their parents. My first thoughts were that the protagonist was being remarkably selfish in refusing to help her older sister Kate, a sufferer of a severe form of leukemia. That was until Anna's childhood was outlined - the endless donations, starting with her umbilical cord at birth, through bone marrow transplants, and finally, the wish for a kidney from Anna. An intial sceptic, I found myself sympathising more and more with the thirteen year old Anna, who has finally decided to hire an attorney (the amusing Campbell Alexander) and sue her parents.
'My Sister's Keeper' would have to be nominated for some form of literary prize, least of all for the moral questions which it raises. By the end of the book, I was confused, upset (to do with the unusual twist at the end), to some extent angry, yet satisfied that I had read it, as this is going to be one of the books that everyone's talking about before long.
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on 18 June 2005
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but had heart a few people talk about it so I bought it from Amazon. It's a heart-breaking novel that had me in tears on quite a few occasions.
Kate is diagnosed with lukemia at age 2 and her parents decide to have a 'designer' baby, Anna, who they hope will save Kate from the certain death. Within hours of being born Anna has donated stem cells from her umbilicle cord....the first of many procedures. Thirteeen yrs later Annas body is still being used to keep her sister alive. This is when Anna decides to fight for the right to have control of her own body.
The twist at the end came out of nowhere and had me in tears yet again.
Its a very thought-provoking book which questions the morals behind 'designer' babies. I defy anyone to read this book and not get a lump in their throat.
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VINE VOICEon 26 February 2005
I read this book primarily because I have a 14 year old cousin who has had leukaemia and other forms of cancer cince she was 2, so the story struck a chord. Medically it is very accurate and well researched. However, this is far from the most important aspect of this book. This is a quite wonderful story that examines a hugely important issue in modern life through a really gripping and moving story. Never at any point does it feel like a lecture, and yet you come out of it having really confromted some issues you never had before, and examined your own beliefs. It is a reallt though provoking and important book.
More than this it is a really well written story, told through the eyes of the various characters involved in the events. Basically, the story is about a girl who takes her parents to court for medical emancipation because she has been used as a donor for her sick sister all her life, andwants the chance to make decisions about her own body. This story is told through wonderful characters with whom you feel really involved and compassionate for. The central character Anna is beautifully drawn, so much so that you almost think the writer is a 13 year old herself, as she seems to understand this little girl so well.
The book does have points that are difficult to read, not because they are gruesome or anything like that, but because you cant imagine what it must be like to have a child going through such an experience. This just makes the book all the more moving and heartbreaking. The twist at the end of the book is amazing. It came out of nowhere and really knocked the stuffing out of me. Like other reviewers, this is one of the few books to have ever made me cry. It really is one of the best pieces of fiction I have ever read, and I cannmot recommend it or praise it highly enough.
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on 15 January 2006
I cried on the bus twice reading this book (and I rarely cry, it was very embarrassing). Because the book is written from the perspective of all the different characters the reader is able to relate to each individual's feelings and see how these can clash with one another, without anyone really being in the wrong. You understand the desperate attempts of Anna and Kate's parents to try and keep Kate alive. It is also possible to understand the frustration of both Jesse and Anna as the 'un-sick' and therefore unseen. However, throughout the novel it never makes total sense that Anna is refusing to donate anything more, as Jodi Picoult makes a point of highlighting the deep bond between the sisters, this explained in the shocking and emotional twist at the end. The novel was absolutley 'un-put-downable' and I would recommend to anyone not afraid of a good cry.
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on 11 June 2004
I loved this book. I couldnt put it down, and it was very emotional. The chapters switch from being narrated by different characters in the story so you see all points of view. You go from agreeing with the character of Anna, that she should not be forced to go through so much pain and medical danger when her sister doesnt really want to keep going on anymore, to changing your mind when the mothers chapter comes around, thinking you would do anything to save your childs life.
Both my friend and I loved it - but beware, if you have an emotional bone in your body you will cry your eyes out in a couple of parts - DO NOT READ THE END OF THE BOOK ON THE TRAIN ON YOUR DAILY COMMUTE!!!
This is a great book - read it.
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