Saturday, December 26, 2009

In The Looking Glass

I've recently discovered Jodi Picoult. She's really a very good writer. She always manages to hook me.

First it was My Sister's Keeper, this past summer. After I watched the movie. I picked it up in the bookstore at the airport when we were flying out west.

When I finished that, my sister-in-law handed me Nineteen Minutes.

Monday I started Handle With Care.

275 pages later, I realized I was reading the same story all over again. My Sister's Keeper redux. That's not meant as a criticism. Not at all. I am really enjoying the book.

It's just the realization that once again we have a child with a terrible disease.

A mother who has (and will) fight to the death for her. No matter what the cost. Even to the rest of her family.

The father ... strong, handsome, in one of those 'hero' jobs (in My Sister's Keeper he was a fireman; in Handle with Care, he's a cop), the "good guy" who loves his family dearly, can see the bigger picture but doesn't seem to be able to make his wife see it, who helplessly watches his family fall apart.

And the other sibling who gets lost in the shuffle- in My Sister's Keeper it was a younger brother; in this one, it's an older sister. Perhaps the one who is most victimized by the situation (and yet no one seems to notice - not them, not what's happening to them), they each, in turn, act out - the brother in My Sister's Keeper starts setting fires and the sister in Handle with Care turns to stuffing and purging (bulimia) and cutting herself.

But it's the mother that brought me here.

I recognize that mother. I know her well. I am her.

Perhaps it's just a by-product of having a child with significant special needs. Over time, they change you. Make you a better person in so many ways.

But eventually those strength's which they bring out in you, ones you didn't even know you had, can become too strong. That focus, too focused.

Yeah, you really do know what your child needs. But you become so use to having to fight for it (and get so good at it) that it starts to consume your whole life. To the point that all those other people you also love can no longer compete.

Single-minded determination. It will burn out not just you, but also everybody else in its path.

And yet, where is that magic line? When have you taken it far enough? When have you taken it too far?

The answer, often, is a question of perspective. And Ms. Picoult is very good at writing from various perspectives.

She also has a definite flair for the dramatic and unexpected. I now know that there's a very good chance that she will turn your world upside down by the end of a book, if she so chooses. Leaving you with very unsatisfying endings.

In the vast majority of books, the conflict is resolved by the end of the story. The bad guys are found and captured, the lovers re-unite, the world is saved. Not in a Picoult novel, though. People don't live happily ever after. In fact, there's a very good chance that those characters who manage to survive will most definitely live unhappily ever after.

Her next book is to be about a teenage boy with Asperger's Syndrome. On the autistic spectrum, these individuals show marked deficiencies in social skills, having difficulties with social interactions, communications and transitions. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. And they have a great deal of difficulty reading body language and very often have difficulty determining proper body space. It's these very characteristics that make the boy at the centre of the book the prime subject in a murder case.

I expect another good read. But, I must confess, I do hope not to find myself portrayed anywhere in this book. Knowing from past experience that it can be and usually is more than a little disconcerting.


Kris, in New England said...

Jodi PIcoult is one of my favorite authors. My fave of her books is Nineteen Minutes. She is a profoundly good writer.

I worked with her brother a few years ago. She is as generous as she is talented. We held a fundraiser and asked if perhaps she could donate one signed book.

She donate 5 signed books, all first editions. And they would be personalized for the winning bidder of our fundraiser.

Even if she sucked as a writer I'd buy all her books just because of that.

balancing act said...

I have read "My Sister's Keeper" and loved the book. I have to admit that I picked up "Nineteen Minutes" and couldn't bring myself to read since I am already paranoid amount school shootings. My kids are in grammer school still but I am a worry wart by nature and didn't want to feed that fear anymore. I will eventually read it.

tam said...

I have all her books MMC, except My Sisters Keeper. I don't know why, but I just can't bring myself to buy it.....

The only one of hers that I really don't like is Songs of the Humpback Whale (or is it Sounds of the Humpback Whale)... I forget now.

Hope your holidays were good. Mine were ok. Some weird family dynamics happening, but I'm from a weird family, so it's par for the course, right?!