For February's book we'll be reading My Sister's Keeper by Jill Picoult.
About the book: The story takes place in Providence, Rhode Island in 2004. Anna Fitzgerald's older sister, Kate, suffers from acute promyelocytic leukemia, a blood and bone marrow cancer. Anna was conceived as a savior sibling, in order to harvest blood from her umbilical cord to use in treatments to help save Kate's life. Although the treatment was initially successful, Kate relapsed; ever since, Anna, the only compatible family member, has been used as a donor for any other bodily substance needed to treat Kate, who continues to swing between remission and relapse as she grows up.
Anna is usually willing to donate whatever Kate needs, but when she is 13, she is told that she will have to donate one of her kidneys. The surgery required for both Kate and Anna would be major; it is not guaranteed to work, as the stress of the operation may well kill Kate anyway; and the loss of a kidney could have a serious impact on Anna's life. Anna petitions for medical emancipation with the help of lawyer Campbell Alexander, so that she will be able to make her own decisions regarding her medical treatment and the donation of her kidney.
Anna's mother, Sara, is an ex-lawyer and decides to represent herself and her husband in the lawsuit. Over the course of the novel, she tries on several occasions to make Anna drop the lawsuit. Anna refuses to do so, but the resulting tension between her and her mother result in her moving out of the house to live with her father Brian in the fire station where he works. This is done on the advice of Julia Romano, the court-appointed guardian ad litem whose job it is to decide what would be best for Anna. Julia was once romantically involved with Campbell when they went to school together, but Campbell broke her heart when he left her. Unbeknown to Julia, Campbell left her because he discovered he had epilepsy and thought she deserved better.
Meanwhile, Anna's brother Jesse, who has spent most of his life being ignored in favor of ill Kate or donor Anna, spends most of his time setting fire to abandoned buildings with home-made explosives and doing drugs. He is a self-confessed juvenile delinquent. One moment when his parents pay him any attention is when Brian discovers that it is Jesse who has been setting the fires. Brian forgives him, and by the end of the book, he has reformed and graduated from the police academy.
During the trial, it is revealed that Kate asked Anna to sue for emancipation because she did not want Anna to have to transplant, and because she believes that she will die anyway. The judge rules in Anna's favor, and grants Campbell medical power of attorney. However, as Campbell drives her home after the trial, their car is hit by an oncoming truck. Brian, the on-call firefighter who arrives at the scene, retrieves an unconscious and injured Anna from the wreckage of the crushed car and rushes her and Campbell to hospital. At the hospital, the doctor informs Sara and Brian that Anna is brain-dead, that the machines keeping her alive may as well be switched off, and asks them if they have considered organ donation. Campbell steps in, and declares that he has the power of attorney, and "there is a girl upstairs who needs that kidney." Kate is prepared for surgery, and Anna's kidney is successfully transplanted. Kate survives the surgery and remains in remission for at least six years.
Kate believes that she survived because someone had to go, and Anna took her place. Six years later, she works as a dance instructor.
Movie Trailer for My Sister's Keeper.
For March's book will be reading Water for Elephants by Sue Gruen.
About the book: The story is told as a series of memories by Jacob Jankowski, a ninety-three year-old man who lives in a nursing home. Jacob is told what to eat and what to do.
As the memories begin, Jacob Jankowski is a twenty-three year old Polish American preparing for his final exams as a Cornell University veterinary student when he receives the devastating news that his parents were killed in a car accident. Jacob’s father was a veterinarian and Jacob had planned to join his practice. When Jacob learns that his father was deeply in debt because he had been treating animals for just beans and eggs and had mortgaged the family home to provide Jacob an Ivy League education, he has a breakdown and leaves school just short of graduation. In the dark of night, he jumps on a train only to learn it is a circus train belonging to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. When the owner of the circus, Uncle Al, learns of his training as a vet, he is hired to care for the circus animals. This consequently leads Jacob to share quarters with a dwarf named Walter (who is known as Kinko to the circus) and his dog Queenie. A few weeks later Jacob is summoned to take a look at Camel, an old man who, after drinking Jamaican ginger extract for many years, can't move his arms or legs. Fearing Camel will be "red-lighted" (referring to the practice of throwing circus workers off a moving train as either punishment or as severance from the circus to avoid paying wages),he hides him in his room.
The head trainer, August, is a brutal man who abuses the animals in his care (such as the new elephant Rosie) and the people around him. Alternately, he can be utterly charming. Jacob develops a guarded relationship with August and his wife, Marlena, with whom Jacob falls in love. August is suspicious of their relationship and beats Marlena and Jacob. Marlena subsequently leaves August and stays at a hotel while she's not performing. Uncle Al then informs Jacob that August is a paranoid schizophrenic and then utters a threat: reunite August and Marlena as a happily married couple or Walter and Camel get red-lighted.
A few days later after discovering that August has tried to see Marlena, Jacob visits her in her hotel room. Soon after he comforts her however, the couple sleep together and then eventually declare their love for each other. Marlena soon returns to the circus to perform (and also to have secret meetings with Jacob), but refuses to have August near her, which makes Uncle Al furious.
One night Jacob climbs up and jumps each car, while the train is moving, to August's room, carrying a knife between his teeth intending to kill August. However, Jacob backs out and returns to his car, only to find no one there but Queenie. He then realizes that Walter and Camel were red-lighted and Jacob himself was supposed to be too.
As the story climaxes, several circus workers who were red-lighted off the train come back and release the animals causing a stampede during the performance.
In the ensuing panic, Rosie the elephant takes a stake and drives it into August's head. His body is then trampled. Jacob was the only one who saw what truly happened to August. As a result of this incident, which occurred during a circus performance, the circus is shut down. Soon after, Uncle Al's body is found with a makeshift garrote around his neck. Marlena and Jacob leave, along with several circus animals (Rosie, Queenie and others), and begin their life together.
Ninety-three year old Jacob is waiting for his family to take him to the circus. It is revealed that Jacob and Marlena married and had 5 children spending the first seven years at the Ringling Bros. circus before Jacob got a job as a vet for a Chicago zoo. Marlena is revealed to have died a few years before Jacob was put into a nursing home. After finding out no one is coming for him, elderly Jacob goes to the circus on his own. He soon meets the manager Charlie and begs to be allowed to accompany the circus by selling tickets. Charlie agrees and Jacob believes he has finally come home.
Movie Trailer for Water for Elephants.