Monday, March 9, 2009

(23) Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Warning: I do not intend to post specific spoilers, but you may be able to figure out the ending if you read the last two paragraphs of my review. Read at your own risk!

Wrongful Life. The concept is not a foreign one to me. In fact, it is something I am deeply passionate about, given the fact that I was born with a disability. There are some who think that if given the opportunity they would abort a child who was less than perfect. And Jodi Picoult gets to the heart of the subject in her new book, Handle With Care.

Charlotte & Sean O'Keefe are shocked to learn that their unborn child will be born with a debilitating, permanent disability. She will born with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). Also known as Brittle Bone Disease. Willow O'Keefe had broken bones even before she was born. Her tiny little body breaks with the least provocation. And just like that, the O'Keefe family stop living for ice skating lessons and pastry shops and start living for doctor's appointments & bone settings.

After a disastrous vacation to Orlando, Sean & Charlotte consult a lawyer to see if a lawsuit is feasible. Disney World, the Orlando Police Department, anyone. They want someone to pay for the humiliation the family experienced on their vacation.

The Attorney tells them to forget about the vacation. Instead she suggests filing a malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who did not catch the disease with the first Ultrasound. The obstetrician, Piper, is Charlotte's best friend.

Charlotte's decision to go forward with the lawsuit is the toughest decision she has ever had to make. And it rips her family and her life apart. Sean files for divorce, Amelia, their older daughter, essentially feels shunned by her friends & ignored by her family & seeks solace in the worst kind of self destructive behavior. The lawsuit is long and it is ugly. Can Charlotte win the lawsuit & keep her family together? Can she win the Wrongful Birth lawsuit & convince five year old Willow that she loves her unconditionally?

For the most part the story was a good one. Picoult, again, picked a hot button social issues & tells the story from all sides. Charlotte, Sean, Piper, Amelia & Marin, the lawyer.


First of all, a few of the location inaccuracies drove me nuts. For one thing, I was a Shriner's Child. I grew up in a small town 45 minutes from Omaha. I assure you, there is NO Shriner's Hospital in Omaha. God, I wish there was, but no, my family & I drove 8 hours to Minneapolis anywhere from one to three times a year to be seen by the doctor's there. So, inaccuracy number one.

Inaccuracy number two also deals with Omaha. When Charlotte & the girls are at the OI convention, they go to the Henry Doorly Zoo. By far one of the best zoos in the country, if not the world. A scene in the book takes place in the Aquarium. And the content of the scene happens because the Aquarium is empty, & according to the author , the Aquarium is empty because of it's location. Wrong. The Aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo (which happens to be my favorite part of the zoo) is located right inside of the entrance. And is NEVER empty because it is one of the few air conditioned building on the zoo's property. While the scene is great. That one little line about the location could have been left out & still stayed true to the story.

And finally, the other thing that drove me BONKERS about this book was Jodi Picoult's need to follow the latest trends with authors & include random recipes throughout the book. Frankly, I prefer my fiction to not be peppered with recipes. Grrr.... that is one trend that I hope does not last long.

Now let me tell you about one thing that I did like. Something, or someone, I was elated to see mentioned in the book. There is a chapter when the Defense Attorney is tearing into Charlotte. She is asked if all deaf & blind babies should be aborted. And then the lawyer asks about babies with missing limbs. Should they be allowed to be born? The lawyer then gives the examples of Helen Keller & Jim Abbott.
Jim Abbott happens to be a personal hero of mine. He was born with a hand just like mine. He went on win a Gold Medal in the Olympics & pitch a No Hitter for the Yankees. A NO HITTER! Most "able bodied" pitchers DREAM of pitching a No Hitter. I had Jim Abbott's poster hanging in my bedroom for years. I had all of his baseball cards & I even got an autographed picture of him, which I still have. For someone who grows up "different" it is hard to find somebody JUST LIKE YOU to look up to & aspire to be like, I found that in Jim Abbott. No, I didn't want to pitch in the Big Leagues, but it was nice to know that I could if I wanted.
The point the Defense Attorney was trying to make was that less than perfect babies grow up to be productive, contributing adults. Some grow up to be Major League Pitchers & others grow up to work in bookstores. But if every mother aborted their "less than perfect" baby, where would this world be? What would Charlotte have been depriving the world of if she had been given the opportunity to abort Willow?
I hate being disappointed by my favorite authors. John Grisham did it to me with The Appeal. Because of it, I sincerely doubt I will ever read another one of his books & Jodi Picoult may have done it to me with her book Handle With Care.
. I am disappointed because Jodi Picoult did not do Willow justice. She created this child, this beautiful, smart, wonderful child who was born with a disability. And instead of being an advocate for those like Willow & showing the world that people with OI can go on to lead semi-normal, productive lives, she had to go for the "easy out". She was wrote the last chapter for the Kleenex. Just like every other book Picoult has written. And for that, I am so very disappointed in her. Her editor, her publisher, anyone should have had the guts to stand up to this bestselling author & tell her that it is okay to have a happy ending. Sometimes we, the reader, NEED a happy ending.


Mimi said...

I've only read one Picoult (My Sister's Keeper) but can see her writing trend in your review.

ღ Mey ♥¨`*•.¸¸.•*´¨♥ღ said...

this book do not exist here in brazil :(

i´m starting a new blog about me and books, hope you enjoy it!

Deena said...

I held off on reading this post until I finished the book. I just finished it. What. The. Hell. That last chapter, seriously??

I might really be done with JP now. I was violently ANGRY after reading My Sister's Keeper. I liked The Pact. I liked Simple Truth (about the Amish). I liked Nineteen Minutes. I thought The Tenth Circle was okay.
But this one. The last chapter was just totally unnecessary and not needed. I am so sick of getting wrapped up and then almost being able to predict these total CRAP cop-out endings.

Charlotte's Web of Books said...


I am right there with you Deena. That last chapter was a total cop out.

Sverige said...

I love Jodi Picoult, she's my all-time favorite author, and I loved nineteen minutes and Plain Truth, and Vanishing Acts, and all of her other books. BUT, I thought this one was too predictable, which her books usually aren't. But I knew which marriages were going to stay together, what was going to fall apart, and how the book was going to end, even though it was still disappointing. If you need a good read, find another one of her books, but she seems to have run out of ideas for this one. It was really well researched though, so I did learn a lot about osteogenesis imperfecta.

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