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October 29, 2009

Best Discussion Books: MY SISTER'S KEEPER

Posted by webmaster
Recently we asked book club members to share the book that resulted in their group's best discussion. The nearly 40 titles we received run the gamut from biographies to thrillers. Surprisingly, only one was mentioned more than once: Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper. Today Denise Neary offers her thoughts on the novel and why it sparked a great discussion among the mother-daughter members of her book club. Has your group read My Sister's Keeper? Tell us about your discussion in the Comments section.

We'll be sharing more "Best Discussion Books" in future posts.

Click here to read Denise's guest blog post about The Red Balloons, the book club she founded with her daughter, and here for her recollections of the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

My Sister's Keeper provided a great discussion for our daughter/mother book club. That is, if you count talking all over one another, laughing, arguing, never letting the discussion leader get a word in (much less getting her questions out) as a great discussion, as our group does.

Picoult is such a master at presenting complicated questions in concrete yet head-spinning packages --- so here is the situation, and your response is.... What? Given the choices these characters had to confront, what would you do?

For some inexplicable reason, the strong-willed daugher and the strong-willed mother in the book both resonated with our group of teens and moms. It was interesting to hear the teens' take on Sara, and the moms' take on her daughters, Anna and Kate. The book made us think hard, both daughers and mothers, about what it is to be an individual in a family, not just in extraordinary circumstances but day to day. That is a complicated issue at any time in life, and especially tricky for a teen coming to terms with a sense of who they are in the world. Several of them have probably considered legal emancipation since reading the book.

The ending (the book's ending, not the movie version) provided such perfect discussion bedlam, especially when one of the moms pointed out that Sara was right (bad words to be uttered in front of a group of teens) --- if Anna had done this one last thing for her sister, she would have saved Kate and no more would have been asked of her.

A rare and telling silence in the discussion --- everyone, daughters and moms, strongly believed that Anna had been asked too much in her young life. But when the discussion leader asked the moms in the group what we would do if our own child were in that situation, none of us could answer. What did that silence mean, and what did it say to our daughters?

We all make plans, and then fate steps in --- in real life, and in books. My Sister's Keeper gives a beautiful and anguished portrait of the choices we sometimes have to make...and endless opportunity for discussion.

---Denise Neary
The Red Balloons