April 12, 2004 12:00 PM


by Jodi Picoult

This beautifully crafted novel will grab readers with its stunning topic: Is it okay to breed one child for spare parts to save the life of another? Picoult doesn’t offer a simple answer but instead lets her characters—and readers—hash it out.

The Fitzgerald family is torn when 2-year-old Kate is diagnosed with leukemia and requires a perfectly matched donor to survive. Along comes Anna—via in vitro, not by chance—who supplies her older sister with cells and bone marrow. Later, when Anna is 13 and asked to give up a kidney, she hires a lawyer to reclaim the rights to her body. Each chapter shifts the point of view to a different person, a technique that exposes the many conflicts of this ethical riddle. The mother fears losing both girls, the delinquent older brother Jesse masks his inability to protect Kate by destroying his surroundings, Anna struggles with the notion that “Kate’s death would be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me…and also the best” and Kate simply wants peace for all. As the lawsuit builds, the tightly woven tale seamlessly bounces from past to present, from the hospital to the Fitzgerald home and even to the star-filled skies, where the firefighter father looks for courage. “There are just as many stories to be told in the dark spots as there are in the bright ones,” he says at one point. Picoult’s style borders on poetic but she stumbles over distracting subplots on the way to a climactic courtroom shocker. The ending could be a bit more courageous, but even so, the matter is far from over. Now go discuss with your book club.

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