Rating:

Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen

My Sister’s Keeper is the first of Jodi Picoult’s best-selling novels to hit the big screen. This is a significant achievement for Picoult; former best-sellers The Pact, Plain Truth, and The Tenth Circle all aired as Lifetime Original TV movies.

My Sister’s Keeper is a multi-character narrated novel which follows the Fitzgerald family through one daughter’s hopeless battle with leukemia, the other daughter’s struggle to live up as Kate’s savior, and a son’s delinquent behavior which fails to get him noticed. When Anna no longer wishes to use her body to prolong Kate’s life, their parents find themselves on opposite sides, one willing to do anything to save Kate, and the other wanting to allow Anna the opportunity to live her own life.

As with any novel that is adapted as a movie, certain aspects of the story change. Characters are added or omitted. Themes recognized in the novel are obsolete in the film. Fans of the novel who are initially excited to see beloved stories brought to life will empty theatres, murmuring to one another their disappointments and wondering why what they just saw wasn’t everything they had hoped it would be.

In addition to the main plot involving the Fitzgerald family, the novel includes a wonderful subplot involving Anna’s lawyer, Campbell Alexander, and Anna’s guardian ad litem, Julia Romano. The judge ruling the case assigns Julia to help the court determine if Anna is capable of making such a huge decision on her own. Campbell’s and Julia’s past is told through flashbacks of their year together during high school; at graduation, he leaves Julia heartbroken and disappears from her life. Through Anna’s case, Campbell and Julia reconcile and the truth behind his difficult decision comes out. In the film, Julia Romano is written out completely. Campbell Alexander also disappointingly has very little screen time.

One of my favorite parts of the movie involves Taylor Ambrose, whom Kate meets at a dialysis appointment. Considered a minor character in the novel and appearing in only about 15 pages, Taylor Ambrose (Thomas Dekker, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) is present throughout a good chunk of the movie. Unlike the novel, Kate and Taylor are shown going on dates that don’t include being hooked up to IVs. Kate isn’t wearing a mask when they kiss for the first time, and Sara is not at the prom monitoring her daughter’s every breath. Though their scenes together do not mirror events in the novel, the storyline in the film is much more complete and satisfying.

Kate and Anna’s brother Jesse is the most drastic character alteration in the entire movie. The novel presents an angry older teenager who has been ignored much of his life. While Kate has been sick and Anna has been saving her, Jesse has been setting fires. Kate’s illness is not something he can control and he doesn’t have the ability to save her life. He does, however, have the power to command flames. In the film, he is a more sympathetic character, shown supporting each of his sisters through their ordeals and trying to keep the peace between Anna and her parents.

Anna is short for “Andromeda”; in addition to being a fireman, Brian Fitzgerald is a closet astronomer. Though Sara carries her in her womb for nine months, she gives little thought to what she will name her unborn child. It is Brian who chooses the name Andromeda; Anna is named for the Greek princess who was to be sacrificed to a sea monster to appease Poseidon. Instead, Andromeda gets a happy ending and is rescued by Perseus. Stargazing is a common bond between Brian and Anna throughout the novel, but is not shown in the movie.

The most noticeable difference between the book and the movie is which of the sisters each is focused upon. Though both book and movie are narrated by different characters, the novel revolves around Anna. Kate doesn’t have her own narration in the novel except at the very beginning and then once again at the very end. In the film, Kate has a stronger presence. Flashbacks are prompted by pages turning in Kate’s scrapbook as she reflects back on her young life.

Few courtroom scenes are included in the film; it touches little on the controversial issue of genetically engineered children and medical morality. Instead, the film preaches that all life is worth living, even those faced with overwhelming obstacles.

Though themes and characters were altered, I wouldn’t be able to choose one version over the other. In truth, there were certain scenes in the movie that I preferred to those of the novel. In spite of not being what I anticipated, it proved a good complement to the novel.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.