Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Handle With Care - Jodi Picoult

Just finished reading Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult and boy was I left with tears in my eyes. What is it about Picoult's books? Are they all tearjerkers? Well, let's get to it. Handle With Care tells the story of Willow O'Keefe, a five year old girl born with OI type III (osteogenesis imperfecta aka brittle bone disease). What this means is that Willow will suffer from up to one hundred bone breaks in her lifetime, along with several other severe health complications. Her bones are so brittle that a simple move, like rolling over in her sleep could cause a break, which means that Willow's mom, Charlotte, is constantly on call, waiting to hear a break so that she can rush her daughter to the hospital. All of this devoted parenting comes at a price: preteen daughter Amelia feels neglected, husband Sean feels as if Charlotte believes only she knows how to take care of Willow and is therefore the better parent, their house is falling apart and the fridge is bare and the bills keep on coming and so do the problems. And so, when out of the blue the O'Keefe family are finally able to take a vacation to Disney, spirits are high and worries are cast aside for the time being. Amelia and Willow are overjoyed - finally, a trip that promises to be fun! Of course, things do not always go as planned during vacations. While buying ice cream the O'Keefe's family fun turns into a family nightmare. Willow falls and bones break and a trip to the hospital finds Sean and Charlotte under arrest for child abuse and Amelia being led away to foster care. Without a letter from their doctor, Sean and Charlotte have no proof that Willow is an OI child and therefore cannot prove that those breaks are not the result of child abuse. Charlotte's friend and OB-GYN, Piper Reece, saves the day when she is able to get through to the doctor and get a confirmation of Willow's medical condition to the police. The O'Keefe's are released and reunited with their children. The nightmare is over. However, Sean feels as if the police and Disney treated his family horribly and he wants to sue. He takes his family to meet with a lawyer who promptly tells him that each party involved was just doing their job and that a lawsuit is moot. However, he does provide the O'Keefes with a different type of lawsuit which could possibly net them a huge amount of money that could ensure Willow will have the best medical care for the rest of her life. Two words: Wrongful Birth. What this means is that, if Piper Reece had told Charlotte at her 18 week sonogram that Willow would be OI type III, Charlotte would have had the option to abort the fetus. However, Charlotte did not find out about Willow's OI prognosis until her 27 week sonogram and by then, she was determined to carry through with the pregnancy. Sean is horrified by the lawyer's suggestion to sue for wrongful birth and fiercely declares that he loves Willow and would never have even considered having her aborted. Charlotte, on the other hand, is intrigued by this new proposition and begins to fantasize about all of the money that could be won from this suit and how they would all finally be able to breathe better knowing that Willow's medical treatments would all be paid for. Without telling Sean, Charlotte goes ahead and talks with the lawyer and proceeds to sue her best friend Piper for malpractice. This action alone sets into motion so many heartbreaking events - Sean decides to leave Charlotte and files for divorce; Piper and Charlotte are no longer best friends; Amelia is abandoned by her family and only friend Emma and so she turns to bulimia and cutting as a way of coping with her loneliness/depression; Willow hears her mother admit that she wishes she had never been born; Charlotte questions her mothering skills and devotion to her family; Piper leaves her medical practice, etc. Its amazing how one action can cause so many reactions from so many people. The book takes us through the trial and shows us how each person is emotionally broken and the ways in which they choose to handle their breaks. In the end, Charlotte wins her case and receives a huge settlement in the millions - money that will last Willow and her family for quite some time. We find out that Sean and Charlotte still love each other and decide not to get divorced. Amelia gets help for her self-harming issues and turns to painting. And Willow, well, we finally get to read what Willow's thoughts are on this whole lawsuit, the money, her family, etc. Its quite sad actually, what happens in the end and Willow's final thoughts. Its always sad to read about a family that is torn apart and how in the end they will continue to be torn apart. All in all, a good book that makes you cry and think about family, genetics, disabilities, health care, and so much more. I think I will take a break from Picoult - enough crying for now. I'm off to read 84, Charing Cross Road. Happy reading!!


Athira said...

I've read two Picoults, Nineteen minutes and Tenth Circle. Although I didn't cry for either, they both left me very sad. Picoult really delves out tragedy after tragedy. I would love to read more of hers, but I would be able to predict that the ending will make me cry. I think I will read her after a few months. She writes good stories, but for some reason, I don't like her writing style.

Nadia said...

Thanks for the comments! I do agree with you that you can usually predict the ending, which is a bit tiresome at times, because it would be nice to be surprised. Also, her writing is typically the same, which did annoy me this time round. I think that is why I need a break - I got tired of the same ole, same ole.

UK said...

This was an excellent book. It was a touching story about a child who has brittle bones and the trials she goes through. On top of that there was the moral dilemma that her mother faced of what she would have done had she know ahead of time that her child would have to live this way?