If someone were to tell you that My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, is  about a girl who was conceived in vitro and genetically selected to provide blood cells, marrow, etc., for a sister with terminal leukemia, it would sound like a good story line and you might think you knew where it was going.  But you would be so wrong.  Yes, that’s a good plot.  Even gripping.  But this is an extraordinary book and it is gripping on so many more levels.

Jodi Picoult in 2003 received the New England Book award for her entire body of work (twelve best selling novels so far) and the American Library Association Alex award for My Sister’s Keeper.  When you know that, you figure the writing will be at least half-way decent and, of course, it is. We also have here a monumental ethical dilemma – can you use one person for another person’s benefit?  Or to save another’s very life?

When Anna, at the age of 13, decides she is going to take her parents to court and sue for medical emancipation,  we have an obvious conflict of interests.  She goes to see a lawyer in the very first chapter.  This is a story  with so many twists and surprises that I would not want to spoil any of it with further details.  Suffice to say the novel is not only about Anna, her sister Kate, and her parents, but about her lawyer, his dog, his honey, his honey’s twin sister, Anna’s brother — other people who are profoundly affected by Anna’s decision.

Author Picoult displays an amazing grasp of the medical intricacies in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia, the really worst kind.   That perhaps is to be expected. She did her research.  But along the way she also provides insights into astronomy, firefighting, gay bars, terminal illness, juvenile delinquency that fill these pages with depth and sidelights that are seldom found in just one book.

It’s a page-turner, surprising, educational, recommended. (425 pages)