Jodi Picoult’s novel, ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ starts off with the chapters being divided into different events seen by different characters. It starts with Anna Fitzgerald waiting to see a lawyer who has just recently, sued God, and won. Picoult brings a larger than life view to Campbell Alexander, the lawyer, and then places him as the would-be saviour of the Fitzgerald family. The two main issues in the book are the severe illness that Kate (the eldest child) has had nearly all her life, and the fact that Anna, her younger sister was conceived using in vitro fertilization with specific characteristics, a ‘designer baby’, to donate various bits and pieces of her body to her sister Kate. The book basically begins with Anna pursuing Alexander, and telling him she doesn’t want to ‘do it anymore’, ie repeatedly have to give of herself, literally.
On ahead, there are two or three subplots that are interesting enough. Alexander’s love story with Julia, who has been appointed by the court to look into the Fitzgerald family, Sarah and Brian Fitzgerald (the parents)’s unraveling marriage, and Jesse’s (Kate’s brother)’s exacerbating arsonism. So all in all you could conclude that the novel is about an ordinary family, struggling to survive against an extraordinarily deadly illness, with bits of life, love and laughter thrown in.
Now on to the movie.
The movie doesn’t look too closely at the subplots given, but that’s not to be expected. One and a half hour is not enough time to dive into the underlying plots beneath the original plot. The very fact that the actors picked to play Picoult’s characters emulate to a large degree, the actual ones is miraculous. Normally, you don’t see films in which the characters follow the book too closely. But in this one, Sara is just as protective, strong and fierce about Kate as she is in the book. In the film, she isn’t loving towards Anna after she finds out about the lawsuit her youngest child is handing over to her, while in the book she does to some extent, understand. But very little.
The characters are well defined and ‘real’, what an irony, but the plot is changed to fit the film somewhat.. only if ‘somewhat’ meant COMPLETELY AND IN A SHOCKING WAY.
Just at the end, when you might think the film won’t disappoint you after all, it does. The ending is altered completely 360 degrees. In the book, Campbell and Anna are driving when a car crash renders the latter brain dead. In doing so, her kidney is harvested and donated to Kate, who is at the mercy of renal failure. This crash completes the bitter irony prevalent in the book: Anna was fighting to not have to donate her kidney, and Fate decides otherwise. She wins the lawsuit for medical emancipation, and yet by default, becomes her sister’s keeper anyway..
Now in the twisted awful film, things take their natural order. It is Kate who dies of her cancer and Anna who survives. A normal everyday ending, which contains none of the irony or the role of Fate so well defined in the novel. Just a natural simple ordinary ending. Sick girl dies, healthy girl lives. I mean really? The film loses, by a high margin.
Book or Film? Definitely the book.