Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: Handle With Care - Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult - Handle With Care
My rating:

"Things that break - be they bones, hearts, or promises - can be put back together but will never really be whole."

In need of serious read? This book will comfortably suit you.. This book could probably be the most heart-wrenching novel I ever had.. I never read the other Jodi's piece of art, but this book had made me crave for more of her.. For now, this is the best book I had ever read.. And thats why it deserves that 5 hearts.. It worths that much... Honestly, I  never had cried reading a book, but however, this book weeped me.. In fact, I am still weeping while posting this.. Just the thought of the story line is enough to make me feel it again.. This is a great proof of how a gifted Jodi is as a writer.. Its as if a bridge had been build from the characters in the novel straight to my heart; all the emotional tense and heart breaking moments faced by the characters are delivered with honesty and bravery straight to the core of my heart.. This gripping novel is basically on the dilemma some people had to face in their life, except that this is not the type we encounter everyday.. Just so you know, there's nothing not to love about this book..

This book had made me see things in a whole new way (again).. I used to look at some unfortunate people with the mere feeling of sympathy.. But somehow, after reading this, each time I look at people who had to live up their life in such a way that is harder than my life (people with serious financial problem, people who had no parents, people (one of my neighbour, eventually) who had to go work early in the morning and only come back home at night only on bike and the disabled people who had to mingle with ordinary people), i don't only feel sorry for them, sometimes, I hate myself that I can't do anything to help them.. And I feel how unfair the world is.. It always make me wonder why does that happen to them? why not me? and if its me, how would I cope?? It always made my heart broken seeing these unfortunate folks.. I know, its empathy, except that I always felt like I want to give them a hug telling them that everything would be alright.. Above all that, every day, I would be thankful to God to give me such an opportunity to live with lunch and dinner served everyday - the gratification that some people can't even say.. Actually, I also had decided that when I'm a real adult, maybe few more years ahead, when I have a real job, I would do as much charity as I can.. Maybe I could take part in marathon for people in needs and since my blood type is O (I have no idea whether its positive or negative but I'm pretty sure I'm an O since my parents are both O.. Unless, Im adopted which only God knows how it feels like knowing that you're adopted when you are already reaching 20s), I would also might consider on blood donation.. I guess, by doing all that, at least, I had done a bit (if at all) to make the world a better place for everyone..

On the surface, this book is mainly focusing on the bitter sweet life of a family with one disabled member.. Willow O'Keefe, a six year old daughter of Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe is diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type III.. A disease in which the patient would have soft and brittle bones.. With this uncurable disease, Willow had seven broken bones as a fetus added with another four when she was delivered, making a total sum of broken bones on her first breath 11.. While her step sister, Amelia O'Keefe is an ordinary teenager who could skate, swim, and run with her friends, Willow had to take every step with much care.. She had even once broken her bones while sneezing, let alone other causes.. During her first six years as an OI patient, she had the total of 75 bones that she had broken (some of the bone had broken more than once) besides the braces (not the tooth braces, but the one the doctors put on her legs, arms or other part for months so that her bone could recover) and other medical equipment that she had to face one after another..  Willow adore her sister as much as her sister loves her... Willow had always wanted to skate on the ice rink and have friends like Amelia.. However, she realises that  having OI means that she can't lead a normal life, let alone normal fun.. However, as time pass by, Willow's medical treatment expenses are increasing along with her broken bones.. Life was hard enough for each member of the family with such little income.. Charlotte had to stop making money from baking to take care of Willow, leaving Sean the only breadwinner of the family as the NYPD lieutenant..

After the disastrous trip to DisneyWorld where (no surprise) Willow broke her femur when she tripped, a lawyer had advised Charlotte and Sean to file a lawsuit on wrongful birth to help them with their medical expenses.. We might always heard people suing each other of wrongful death, but wrongful birth gives another complete opposite meaning.. This lawsuit suggests the negligibility of Charlotte's obstetrician for not mentioning the little flaw on her eighteenth week scan which could be a sign of OI so that Charlotte could undergo abortion; meaning that Willow should not exist! Sounds painful, but that is the only way Charlotte could have a better life for her daughter.. The life that her daughter could only dream of.. maybe not in the ordinary way, but a new wheelchair and everything could help ease up her life.. Sounds pretty easy, but of course, every action has its consequences, and for this one, the obstetrician she was about to sue was her best and only friend, Dr. Piper Reece.. You might think, so  what, just sue, her daughter life is more important than her best friend's, but the complication here is that since this lawsuit is beyond the ordinary, she might have to tell the world that she wishes her daughter was never born.. To get things harder, not only she have to lie to the world, her daughter, having an OI meaning that she is brighter than the ordinary kids of her age (she knew more facts than most of us ever heard of.. And I could still remember one fact hat she gave; a single cow is used to make 400 McDonald's Quarter Pounder!).. Meaning that, she could understand what her mother wishes for..  The going gets tougher when Sean decided to go against her and act as the defendant in the case along with Piper.. Not only that, as the case is being discussed, theres this one particular point when Charlotte start to wonder if she was really lying.. Or is it her heart talking without even her noticing.. Meanwhile, Willow starts to feel like her own mother does not love her anymore while Amelia had some sort of emotional problem which lead to bulimia and cutting her own wrists.. Its a very complicated story yet heart breaking as the plot moves on.. It makes you want to keep reading refusing to know how it would end..

Things get more crazy when Sean decided to file a divorce with Charlotte in the middle of the case.. Amelia had some sort of problem when she realised that she can't help her sister and hating herself for that.. The only reason she keep vomiting and cutting her wrists and thighs.. The story is narrated by using you (not you, 'you') for Willow.. This somehow make us suspicious enough on what actually happen to Willow.. It makes you feels like you're reading a letter sent to Willow.. Some might guess that Willow must be dead in the end because the usage of 'you' and some might think that the writer did it on purpose so that we would think that Willow is dead for the fact that she lives a happy life in the end.. Since you're reading a spoiler, I guess it wont hurt a bit to tell you that Willow actually died in the end.. And that actually made me cry.. After all those struggle to keep her together, she end up dead.. period.. As for the lawsuit, the court's favor went to the plaintiff.. However, in the end, Charlotte and Sean did not actually get divorced and they live a happy life with their daughters.. The check Charlotte won - the 8 million check - was not used and kept safely at their home.. Still, Willow managed to get new stuffs including a sport wheelchair so that she could play dodgeball with her friends at school without even cashing the check.. I guess they could spend more than they used to since they had the back-up.. Willow was dead at last in the most tragic way I could have ever imagined.. In the end, alone, Willow went to the frozen pond in front of their home to skate.. She tried to get to the center of the pond when suddenly she realised that the ice is still not that hard.. Sadly, the ice broke and she was drown in the pond, not knowing how to swim without a life-jacket and ice covering the surface of the water.. I am literally weeping right now.. The last word Willow had; "I knew for sure: that a scallop has 35 eyes, That a tuna would suffocate if it ever stop swimming, That I was loved, That this time, it was not me who broke.." Oh my God.. That is soo heart wrenching.. Honestly, just  to type in that short quotes took a long time.. I cant type it not pressing on my chest or my heart might stop beating out of sadness.. Oh, and the 8 million check is buried together with Willow.. Lets just pray so that nobody would dig up her grave for the check..

I know it had been a long post but I can't help but to include Jodi's writing style in this book.. I never actually  read the other Jodi's novel (I sure will have Jodi books top of my list after this) but this book had her own way of writing.. This book has only four chapters overall.. However, each chapter is narrated by various characters - Charlotte, Amelia, Sean, Piper, Marin - taking turns to tell the story from their own perspectives.. So, it makes the reader be able to see the story as a whole and not only from one person side.. You'll know the feelings of each character in the novel.. However, each character has their own style of narration.. You can distinguish one character's naration with the other even without reading their name on the top of the page.. Through the pages, the character Willow is narrated by the characters (except Willow herself, of course) as 'you'.. This is to create the feeling of suspicion amongst the reader on what exactly had happened to Willow giving that she is not one of the main narrator in the chapters (she had only one part in the end).. Besides that, I had also noticed the way Jodi end most of her characters part in the narration... Most of the time, at the end of the part where a particular character narrate his/her point of view, she would end the last paragraph with short dialogs or simple sentence which had one thousand and one significant meaning.. Its hard to describe it here, you just have to read it to understand it.. Other than that, Jodi is also the goddess of metaphors.. There are thousands of metaphors in the story line and some of them even had the reader to stop reading, and think for a while to get the real meaning.. The deep and heartful meaning.. Along with the story line, Jodi had also included several bakery recipes that has something to do with the storyline in term of the meaning of the techniques used by chef definition and real life definition.. Besides that, there are some parts in the story where Jodi used difficult medical terms that we might be convinced that the author must had been a doctor and then theres other part where Jodi used more difficult court terms which made us thought that she might have used to be a lawyer too! This shows us that Jodi had done a very deep and thorough research before writing this masterpiece.. Which means, Jodi had really put herself inside out to accomplish this.. So, why not give her some chance for her hardwork..

Last but never the least, of course, I would recommend this book to anyone who might want to challenge their view on medical ethics, abortion, disability, and parenthood.. Believe me, this book will be a rolllercoaster.. Thrilling but yet never ending sensation.. Handle With Care has it all.. Besides being a serious read, it also has it sense of humour, cynicism, romance, and most of all, the moral lessons not to get elsewhere but here.. This book touched my heart.. And please, make yourself believe that it will touch yours..

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