My Sister's Keeper

Reviewed By: Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: August 7, 2005

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OncoLink Cancer Resources - My Sister's Keeper
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Information: ISBN 0743454537 | Paperback |224 Pages | $14.00 US
OncoLink Rating: 3 Stars
Buy this book at and help support the OncoLink mission!

When Sara and Brian's three year old daughter Kate is diagnosed with leukemia, they are determined to save her. They decide to have a baby, Anna, who is predetermined to be an HLA-matched bone marrow donor for Kate. Anna's life becomes one of constant donations, from bone marrow to leukocytes; she is continually called upon to save her sister. But Anna feels the line is crossed when she is told she needs to donate a kidney to her. It seems she doesn't exist unless it is in relation to helping her sister, and so, with the help of a lawyer, the 13 year-old files for medical emancipation from her parents.

Sadly, Sara (the children's mother) has little time, patience, or understanding for her two other children (Anna & Jesse) during Kate's bouts with illness, and much of the story focuses on their feelings and problems because of this. I saw this as a strong lesson for any parent with a sick child – be cautious not to see the needs of their other children as frivolous. Interestingly, a friend whose child was sick for many years said the nursing staff caring for her daughter had made a point to tell her this. The author also gets into the issues surrounding being a donor, and the responsibility the donor feels during a relapse and when the recipient is faced with the possibility of death. As a transplant nurse, I have given these issues much thought and it was interesting to see other viewpoints.

This book grabbed my attention from page one, but, like many readers, I was disappointed with the ending – which I won't give away. Despite this, I would recommend this book to anyone. The author, Jodi Picoult, spoke with children with leukemia, their families, physicians and nurses in order to develop a realistic rendition of this journey. The book is written in first-person format chapters, so the reader gets a glimpse into each character's mind. You can't help but explore and question your own thoughts and beliefs of the situation. I found my beliefs changing depending on which character's viewpoint I was reading – just showing me how complex this topic can be.


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