I would like to start this post off, by saying that I support stem cell research and that I apologise if this is less a book review and more an airing of one’s opinion. I feel that there are a great many things that could be achieved through this type of research – I have a person in my life who no doubt could benefit from this sort of investigation. Even though it may not cure this person now, it could be very beneficial to someone in fifty years time, who has the same condition. This condition may not even exist by then due to this research. Where I draw the line though, is the creating of life to get these stem cells, then destroying that life, especially when there are other ways of harvesting stem cells. We are not Gods, therefore we should not act as though we have that amount of power. It is my aversion to this giving and taking of life that made My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, quite a difficult read for me.
Not all children are planned, we all know this. Some children are planned, whether it be because a couple is simply at that point in their relationship that they would like a baby, or whether it is, in some cases, an attempt to save a relationship that is drowning. One thing that I had never given thought to, was the conception of a child, purely so that they could be a blood or organ donor for a child you already have who has a severe illness, in the case of this book, leukemia. I have heard of the term “designer babies”, people picking the attributes that they wish their child to have. But to create a person with the required genetic attributes, just to save another’s life, seems to me to be rather inhumane. I know what you are thinking though – isn’t it just as inhumane to simply let someone die? Therein lies the dilemma.
People always say that they would do anything for someone that they love. But I think there comes a point in that love, that we need to learn how to let go and really think about what it is that we are doing. Are we simply trying our hardest to save a life, or are we just prolonging their suffering? Do we try our hardest to make this “designer baby” part of the family, or are they always going to be a walking donation, no matter what we say? These are the hard questions that I think many people are afraid to ask themselves, when they are touched by terminal illness. I understand love and I understand not wanting to let people go. But at the same time, if I was the person who was ill, I would not want the people I love to put their lives on hold for me. We all know when our time has come, sometimes it comes so soon we aren’t even aware that we have been on this earth. But time doesn’t stop and either does the world.
I’ll admit that I had not given the stem cell debate a great deal of thought. But I pride myself on my human ability to know what it right and what is wrong and I know enough about this topic to know what is right and what is wrong about it. But this book has given me cause to look at it further. This is the first book I have read by Picoult and I have to say that it is certainly not the best written book that I have ever read. The story is shown from the points of view of a few different characters and while it was clear they all had their own personalities, I feel the writing did not change overly between characters – it sounded like they were all speaking with one voice, who was unsure where they stood on the whole matter. But the subject matter itself was relevant and while the book largely revolves around the choice of an adolescent (I promise you I didn’t miss the point of the book), the topic itself is presented in a way that I am not sure many people think about. I found this book to be truly thought provoking and again, though the book may not have been that well written, I appreciated the different perspectives throughout the book as it is clear that we all have different views when it comes to the stem cell debate. Would I conceive a child to save my dying one? I would have to say no after reading this. I feel that is unfair to ask one person to feel that entire weight upon their shoulders. But at the end of the day I am not a mother and that line has not yet been blurred for me. So while I may not agree with this choice, it’s not my choice to make.
One piece of advice: keep the tissues handy.
RATING – 8 out of 10. Will really get you thinking about why it is that we do the things we do.
WHO SHOULD READ IT – I’d like to say everyone, but that would be a lie. I really couldn’t tell you who should read, maybe everyone should?
WHO YOU’LL LOVE – Anna. A young girl in a terrible position.