Friday, December 19, 2014

[Review] Handle With Care - Jodi Picoult: Raising Chronical Illness Awareness

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In "Handle With Care" by Jodi Picoult, Charlotte O'Keefe sues her gynaecologist and best friend Piper for not telling her that her unborn daughter Willow would be born with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as the brittle-bone disease.

This is obviously NOT a light read. You're going to be in a constant state of being overwhelmed with emotions and questioning your own beliefs. The decision to abort a child because it will be born with a disability is tough and I would just go ahead and say there is no right or wrong answer to this question. "Handle With Care" had me stay awake for hours at a time, thinking about what I would do would I ever be in that kind of situation. I still don't have an answer.

"Handle With Care" is a classic Picoult novel. Just like in each of her works, the characters are developed to perfection. Even side characters like the Judge who just dyed his hair jetblack one day and told everyone he was going to get a motorcycle license remain unforgettable. Again, she decided to part the novel in different point of views. Picoult still remains the only author to me that gets away with that, simply because there is no superficial, superfluous blabla in this. Every chapter is important (and that in a 500-something-pages manuscript!!) and at no point I got the impression that she was just stringing the plot along. This is classic for her, we get flashbacks and so much information about the background of her characters without even noticing. At no point the present tense plot suffers from this. She's a writing genius, really. (Writing 5/5)

Back to the characters. There is no black and white in this novel, there is no good or bad, there is just people and their decisions. I found myself trying to hate the mother of Willow, the sick child, because she repeatedly hinted at the fact that she would have loved a "healthy" child differently. But then again I understood perfectly that she had to lie about this in order to get the money that Willow would need for future treatments.
I was angry at Willow's father Sean for leaving the family during such a difficult time. Then again, I understood why he did it because his wife was being unreasonably terrible at ... well ... being a wife and a human being.
I was completely annoyed with Willow's older sister Amelia who developed several disorders just because she wasn't getting enough attention. Yeah, but then again, imagine to be always in the second row and never get any love from your parents just because you have a sister with a chronical illness.
Picoult's characters are just unforgettable. I felt sucked into their world during their POVs and I perfectly felt like I knew them, this is character development done as right as it gets. (Characters 5/5)

Now we come to the only and most severe problem that this novel. It's too goshdarn long. Yes, I said before that every chapter is necessary to some extent, especially for character development. But the question is, in relation to the entertainment of the reader, do we need so much backgroun dinformation? I pretty much know the entire history of every single character in this novel, even if they only get one appearance. Fact is, if you have five (or more) POVs and corresponding storylines it's impossible to write a 300-page novel. I get that. I still don't get why Picoult decided to include the lawyer Marin Gates' personal history because it isn't really essential to the story. Also the way her adoption story is intertwined is just ridiculously illogical.

There is no clear line, you can't possibly keep track with the timing, and ugh ... too long!! I found myself contemplating to put the novel aside, despite the genius, genius writing and characters. This is the only problem that Picoult needs to work on - developing clear-cut plot lines. (Plot 1/5)

Overall: Do I Recommend?

Definitely. My opinion on abortion, disabilities and all that's related to that, was definitely changed through this novel. it's important to talk about chronical illnesses and it's also important to talk about the amazing people that take care of disabled family members or friends. It's a beautiful read, but be careful - you're going to cry.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Official Synopsis:

"Charlotte's daughter Willow was born with a severe form of brittle bone disease. One stumble could force her to spend months in a body cast. Willow's condition is expensive, and her family face financial ruin. Then Charlotte is offered a lifeline. She could sue her doctor for 'wrongful birth'. But her doctor is her best friend."

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