Saturday, July 7, 2012

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Every expectant parent will tell you that they don't want a perfect baby, just a healthy one. Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe would have asked for a healthy baby, too, if they'd been given the choice. Instead, their lives are made up of sleepless nights, mounting bills, the pitying stares of "luckier" parents, and maybe worst of all, the what-ifs. What if their child had been born healthy? But it's all worth it because Willow is, well, funny as it seems, perfect. She's smart as a whip, on her way to being as pretty as her mother, kind, brave, and for a five-year-old an unexpectedly deep source of wisdom. Willow is Willow, in sickness and in health.

Everything changes, though, after a series of events forces Charlotte and her husband to confront the most serious what-ifs of all. What if Charlotte should have known earlier of Willow's illness? What if things could have been different? What if their beloved Willow had never been born? To do Willow justice, Charlotte must ask herself these questions and one more. What constitutes a valuable life? (from Amazon)

By now everyone should know about my deep love and adoration of Jodi Picoult and all her novels. I feel like it would be a little over the top to gush about yet another one of her books, so I'll try to keep this short.

The summary is a little vague, so I've decided to fill in some of the blanks. Willow was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, which the formal name for brittle bone disease. It's quite debilitating, and people with this disorder can brake bones just by sneezing or knocking into something. I've never broken a bone in my life, so to have sixty plus fractures and breaks by the time you're five (which Willow has) is pretty crazy. I didn't know that much about OI before I read Handle With Care, so I applaud Jodi Picoult for bringing this to my attention and to the attention of her readers.

In Handle With Care, Willow's mother Charlotte decides to file a wrongful birth suit. Essentially, she's saying that if her OB-GYN had diagnosed Willow earlier, she would have terminated the pregnancy. The OB-GYN in question is Charlotte's best friend, which adds another layer of the story. This was a thorny case, especially because Charlotte was pretty much doing it for the money. I agreed with her reasoning, but I think it would be so hard to sit on the stand and say that you would have terminated your daughter when she's sitting right in front of you. Does that make you a good mother to be willing to lie, or a bad one?

The only thing I didn't really like in Handle With Care (except for the ridiculous ending) was its similarity to House Rules, which I just read. Both focus on mothers trying to help their children with a disability, both have another child who feels neglected and starts acting out because of it, both highlight the struggles (financial, physical and emotional) that the families undergo.

Overall, Handle With Care is a nice addition to the Jodi Picoult's body of work. It's not my favorite of hers, but still a good novel in its own right.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2009/Atria/477 pages.


We Heart YA said...

Oooo, GREAT review! Thank you for pointing out the parallels between this one and HOUSE RULES. That's good to know (since that is also the last Jodi Picoult we read). But it sounds like this one is even more up our alley than this one was. More like MY SISTER'S KEEPER, with emotional family dynamics.

Kristilyn (Reading in Winter) said...

I've only read one Jodi Picoult book -- My Sister's Keeper -- but really enjoyed it! I've got to try out more of her books. I always hear wonderful things!

Great review. :)