Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Book Info:
Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Atria (March 3, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780743296410
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5

When Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe's daughter, Willow, is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, they are devastated -- she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain. As the family struggles to make ends meet to cover Willow's medical expenses, Charlotte thinks she has found an answer. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn for not telling her in advance that her child would be born severely disabled, the monetary payouts might ensure a lifetime of care for Willow. But it means that Charlotte has to get up in a court of law and say in public that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she'd known about the disability in advance -- words that her husband can't abide, that Willow will hear, and that Charlotte cannot reconcile. And the ob/gyn she's suing isn't just her physician - it's her best friend.

Handle With Care explores the knotty tangle of medical ethics and personal morality. When faced with the reality of a fetus who will be disabled, at which point should an OB counsel termination? Should a parent have the right to make that choice? How disabled is TOO disabled? And as a parent, how far would you go to take care of someone you love? Would you alienate the rest of your family? Would you be willing to lie to your friends, to your spouse, to a court? And perhaps most difficult of all -- would you admit to yourself that you might not actually be lying?

I enjoy Picoult's books, but have to put a little time in between reading them, or else they seem way too similar. Her books all follow the same formula of a moral dilemma, followed by a "twist" right at the ending of the book. While it's obvious that the formula works, it can be a bit repetitive.

Like all of Picoult's books, Handle With Care, brings up tough issues. I think this aspect of her books are very interesting, because they are very real issues, but things that most people don't discuss as they are emotional issues. I've never been in a book club, but I've always thought that Picoult's books would be a wonderful discussion starter.

My biggest complaint about the book, besides the formulaic nature of it, is that the writing is a bit heavy handed at times. There is no subtlety in the writing. For example, there are 4 or 5 situations in the book where Picoult specifically calls them "catch-22 situations". This is a pretty basic concept and I think most readers would have picked up on it, without it being repeatedly spelled out.

Overall, I found Handle with Care interesting for the issues it brings up, and think it would work well for a book club discussion. 4 stars


Cindy said...

It sounds like it would be a good book to read :)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Great review! AfterMy Sister's Keeper, this was my next favorite Picoult book (read them all).

Anna said...

I've read a few Picoult books and enjoyed them overall. I'll read this one eventually, I'm sure. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

Diary of an Eccentric

Tina said...

Congratulations!You've just been awarded the Literary Blogger Award. A really easy choice for me- your reviews are always inspiring. Tina

Literary Feline said...

Thank you for your great review, Melissa. I have enjoyed the Picoult books I've read, but agree with you--they all seem to be written using the same formula. And for that reason, like you, I like to space my reading of her books out.

Zibilee said...

I tend to shy away from Picoult's books for the same issues that you mention in your review. The clunky writing, the formulaic plot elements. I know there are people who really adore her writing, but I just don't think I would really enjoy her books. In any case, great review!

Tracie said...

Completely agree with your comments on Picoult's writing. I love her books, but I can't read them all at once because of the formulaic writing. The first book I read of Picoult's is Second Glance and it is my favorite; it also seems like it is different than her other books.