Literature: Picoult’s Handle With Care

“There were lies we told to save ourselves, and then there were lies we told to rescue others. What counted more, the mistruth, or the greater good?” –from Jodi Picoult’s Handle With Care

handlewithcarejodipicoult Title: Handle With Care // Author: Jodi Picoult // Publisher: Simon and Schuster // Date: March 2009 // 496 p.

I’ve been reading a more fiction than usual: one excellent collection of short stories…and before that, Jodi Picoult’s so-so new novel. You’ll have to wait for the next literature post to hear about the fantastic, amazing, super-great collection of short stories…and in the meantime here’s a bit about Picoult’s new novel, Handle With Care. This book shot straight to the top of the bestseller lists, and it remains this week #2 on the NYT Best Sellers list.

Plot in a nutshell:
In her morally charged new novel, Handle with Care, Jodi Picoult again explores questions relevant to our times. When Charlotte O’Keefe finds out that her unborn daughter Willow has a collagen defect called osteogenesis imperfecta—OI—she knows that her child will suffer physically from brittle bones and hundreds of breaks during her lifetime. But Charlotte cannot foresee the ways that debate over Willow’s care will fracture her family.

With mounting medical bills and ongoing concerns over Willow’s future, Charlotte buys into a lawyer’s suggestion to file a wrongful birth lawsuit as a way to offset the financial burden. Even though the case rests on the grounds that Charlotte’s obstetrician missed some of the defect’s early clues while Willow was still in the womb, filing it requires Charlotte and her husband Sean to admit under oath that it would have been better for their smart and beautiful daughter to have never been born. And the obstetrician that the couple must sue happens to be Charlotte’s best friend. Such a situation begs questions about the value of life and the care of loved ones born with debilitating conditions.

Pros:
The book’s major characters take turns telling their sides of the story, one chapter at a time. This collage of voices adds variety to the narrative, and a pastry chef’s recipes sprinkled throughout serve to sweeten the deal.

Cons:
Mid-book, the tension lags as Willow’s parents—divided over the implications of a wrongful birth lawsuit— seem to repeat the same argument over and over again, without resolution.

Final Word:
Handle with Care provides multiple entry points for book club conversation, and its final pages offer readers an unexpected twist. Such a surprise conclusion makes up for some of the midsection slowness.

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