Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
Published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe's youngest daughter, Willow, is afflicted with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a brittle bone disease that disposes her to break bones from even the simplest of acts, such as sneezing. Charlotte has become Willow's full-time caregiver and neglected her husband and older daughter Amelia, in the process. When an opportunity presents itself to sue for wrongful birth (claiming they would have terminated the pregnancy had they known of Willow's condition), Charlotte's decision will alter the lives of each family member forever and create a rift between her and her best friend, who was her gynecologist at the time.
True to Picoult's winning formula, this book unravels through the different points of view of the main cast of characters. The emotions are raw and the pain is almost tangible as each character struggles with their own reality and tries to find a coping mechanism to ease their heartache. I found myself quickly drawn into the lives of the O'Keefe family and it was hard to pull myself away from the book. The characters were all well-crafted, however some were able to elicit more emotion out of me than others, such as Amelia and Charlotte, while other characters such as Marin (the attorney) and Piper (the gynecologist) left me with less of an emotional connection. Nonetheless, each character serves an important role in the story and their complex subplots and internal conflicts make the book what it is.
There are a number of events that are hard to digest and as with classic Picoult writing, these characters do not shy away from controversional topics or serious issues. For example, while Sean and Charlotte's marriage falls apart, Amelia starts spiralling out of control and becomes self-destructive. Even though those parts were hard to read, they were a necessary part of the story and definitely added another interesting angle. My only issue is that towards the ending, I felt that some of these important issues were not properly resolved and seemed to be swept under the rug while the narrative dealt with more pressing topics.
What I liked though, is the inclusion of different recipes and baking techniques between different section that in my opinion served a couple functions. It was interesting to see how the techniques, such as blind baking, weeping and tempering, connected to the storyline and offered further insight into what was transpiring. Additionally, for me these interludes represented a reprieve from the emotionally difficult subject matter which I really needed.
Jodi Picoult in an incredibly talented writer who delves into deep contemporary issues with great care and a lot of meticulous research (as I learned from reading through her website) and Handle With Care is no exception. Though her plotlines can seem a little formulaic, they are always able to make me ponder some deeper issue and inevitably shed tears which in my mind, makes for a very effective novel! I can't wait to read her next book coming out March 2010 called House Rules (click here for an excerpt).
BIG THANKS to Michelle and Simon & Schuster Canada for my review copy.