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Book Club Kits: My Sister's Keeper

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate -- a life and a role that she has never challenged...until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister -- and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? Once again, in My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult tackles a controversial real-life subject with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity.

Read an excerpt from the novel.

Discussion Questions

  • What is your opinion of Sara?  With her life focused on saving Kate, she sometimes neglects her other children.  Jesse is rapidly becoming a juvenile delinquent, and Anna is invisible—a fact that the little girl knows only too well.  What does this say about Sara’s role as a mother?  What would you have done in her shoes?  Has she unwittingly forgotten Jesse and Anna, or do you think she has consciously chosen to neglect them—either as an attempt to save a little energy for herself, or as some kind of punishment?  Does Sara resent her other children for being healthy?  Did you find yourself criticizing Sara, empathizing with her, or both?

  • What do you think of this story’s representation of the justice system?  What was your opinion of the final outcome of the trial?

  • Campbell is certainly a fascinating character: guarded, intelligent, caring and yet selfish at the same time.  Due to these seemingly contradictory traits, it can be difficult to figure him out.  As he himself admits, “motivations are not what they seem to be.”  At one point, he states, “Out of necessity—medical and emotional—I have gotten rather skilled at being an escape artist.”  Why do you think Campbell feels that he needs to hide his illness?  Is it significant that Anna is the first to break down his barriers and hear the truth?  Why, for example, does he flippantly dismiss all questions regarding Judge with sarcastic remarks?

  • Who is your favorite character?

  • Near the end of the novel, Anna describes “Ifspeak”—the language that all children know, but abandon as they grow older—remarking that “Kids think with their brains cracked wide open; becoming an adult, I’ve decided is only a slow sewing shut.”  Do you believe this to be true?  What might children teach the adults in this novel?  Which adults need lessons most? 

  • “It’s more like we’re astronauts, each wearing a separate helmet, each sustained by our own source of air.”  This quote comes from Anna, as she and her parents sit in silence in the hospital cafeteria.  Besides being a powerful image of the family members’ isolation, this observation shows Anna to be one of the wisest, most perceptive characters in the novel.  Discuss the alienation affecting these characters.  While it is obvious that Anna’s decision to sue her parents increases that sense of alienation throughout the novel (especially for Anna herself), do you think that she has permanently harmed the family dynamic? 

  • Early in the legal proceedings, Anna makes a striking observation as she watches her mother slip back into her lawyer role, noting, “It is hard to believe that my mother used to do this for a living.  She used to be someone else, once.  I suppose we all were.”  Discuss the concept of change as it is presented in this story.  While most of the characters seem to undergo a metamorphosis of sorts—either emotionally or even physically (in the case of Kate), some seem more adept at it than others.  Who do you think is ultimately the most capable of undergoing change and why? 

  • My Sister’s Keeper explores the moral, practical, and emotional complications of putting one human being in pain or in danger for the well being of another.  Discuss the different kinds of ethical problems that Anna, as the “designer baby,” presents in this story.  Did your view change as the story progressed?  Why or why not?  Has this novel changed any of your opinions about other conflict in bioethics like stem cell research or genetically manipulated offspring?
  • What did you think about the ending?

The My Sister's Keeper Movie