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Friday, March 27, 2009

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult _ Spoilers abound



More spoilers than Spoiler holiday on Spoiler island. So stop RIGHT HERE if you haven't read Handle With Care yet and you're planning to curl up with it for the weekend.

You Have Been Warned.

Okay. You know, I don't like to know that I"m being emotionally manipulated when I'm reading. I know it happens, it kind of has to sometimes, if the author wants you to engage with their story and feel compassion and empathy and such with their characters.

But I REALLY prefer it when I don't notice. But with Jodi Picoult, especially with this, her latest offering, it's more like being hit over the head with the Emotionally Manipulative Blue Cod than having it sneak under your skin, and get into your heart that way.

I haven't read a lot of Ms Picoult's books, and she writes well enough that when I am reading one, I can finish it in a few days with little struggle. Her characters are well-realised, and very human, and deeply flawed. And I like the way she tells the story from different perspectives, so we get to see inside more than one person's head.

But. Here come the buts.
The last novel by Ms Picoult I read was My Sister's Keeper, about two sisters, one healthy, one sick. There's a family, and a court case and _ REALLY BIG SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER COMING IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK STOP READING NOW _ at the end of the book one of the sisters dies.

Now. Let's consider Handle With Care. Two sisters, one healthy, one sick. The major difference here is the disease, which is Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, rather than cancer.

Then comes the court case. With me so far? Good.
SPOILER
Know what happens next? Exactly. And I could see it coming. I knew it was coming. But I was really, really let down when it did happen.

Here's the thing, and I know I'm jumping around a lot. The story made no sense to me.

Charlotte O'Keefe initiates a wrongful birth lawsuit against her obstetrician _ who is also her best friend _ when she discovers that Piper maybe, just maybe should have diagnosed her daughter Willow's condition earlier. If the OI had been diagnosed when Charlotte had her 18-week ultrasound, she could have made the decision to have an abortion. Except that Charlotte's a practicing Catholic, which is only one of the things in the book that really confused me. By the time Willow's OI is diagnosed, when Charlotte is 27 weeks pregnant, she won't even consider a late-term abortion. And, from what I could gather from the story, it would be almost impossible to diagnose it at 18 weeks.

And the lawsuit is basically saying to Willow _ who is six, and incredibly smart _ that Charlotte didn't want her, when clearly she loves her and in every other way fights as hard as she can for her. Charlotte says that's why she initiated the lawsuit, to give Willow more opportunities than she would otherwise have in an ordinary family, struggling to get by.

Oh. This is making me tired!!!
Let's sum up:
Willow has OI, Type III, which is severe, but not fatal.
Charlotte, her mother, initiates a wrongful birth lawsuit against her best friend and obstetrician _ barely seeming to think about it before starting with it.
Willow has a big sister, Amelia, who is messed up in all the possible ways that a 13-year-old can be messed up. Throughout 3/4 of the book, Amelia is the one I feel the most sorry for. Every time someone says ''your daughter'' to Charlotte, she immediately thinks of Willow, and I swear, a couple of times, she has to be reminded she even has another child.
Sean, Charlotte's husband, disapproves strongly of the lawsuit and starts divorce proceedings.
Amelia dyes her hair blue, starts throwing up her food, stealing, and self-harm.
Piper Reece leaves her practice, and takes up interior decorating.
Charlotte and Sean get back together.

SPOILER
SPOILER
SPOILER

After a lot of emotionally manipulative bollocks lathered on with seven spades, Charlotte wins the lawsuit, and is awarded $8 million in damages. For a medical problem that the most uber-expert either lawyer in the case can dig up says even he would have trouble diagnosing at 18 weeks gestation.

Grrr. Grrr
AND THEN! After Amelia's problems are dealt with _ very speedily _ by sending her away and having her come back "normal", and an artist, Willow falls through the ice on a pond near their house, and drowns. Charlotte puts the check _ that they've never cashed _ in her coffin.

The end.

I.don't.get.it.

33 comments:

Paxton said...

I see what you mean about emotional manipulation. I, myself, can't read Ms. Piccoult's books because I find them too intensely depressing. I don't really like my reading material to be that emotional, real and sad. But that's just me.

Nice blog you got here. I may stick around for a bit. :-)

Paxton Holley
Cavalcade of Awesome
http://paxholley.net

Kerry said...

I haven't been inspired to read any Picoult books and now I find myself even less so.

But you're totally right. None of that makes sense, and I'd hate being manipulated like that too.

Nymeth said...

Even though I've never read any of her books, I can't shake off the impression that I won't like her. And reviews like yours only confirm it :P

Maree said...

It works a lot better in My Sister's Keeper, because the lawsuit in that book makes more sense to me.
Anna, who is a minor, seeks emancipation from her parents. She had been conceived through IVF, to be a perfect bone marrow donor for her sister, who suffers from leukemia. At 14, however, after numerous surgeries, Anna seeks emancipation when her sister needs a kidney transplant. I can understand that one. Can't understand this one.

Sherrie said...

Hi!
That sound like a very confusing book! But in my opinion only, I think most of Jodi Picoult's are confusing! I have joined in on your Catch Up Challenge. Thanks for stopping by my place. I would have never found your challenge! Have a great evening!

Sherrie

Staci said...

I totally understand how you're feeling and the others that left comments too. For me, I wish Picoult would go back to her writing at the beginning of her career. She focused more on the characters and the story instead of a topic-driven book. That being said, I still liked this book and I feel that she's a solid writer. But the ending made me mad!!

nanscorner said...

I just finished Handle With Care and I think your review sums up the book very well. I loved Picoult's earlier books, but they seem so formula driven now and very predictable. This time around, I found it very hard to care about some of the characters. For people that haven't read her books before, try some of her earlier works.

mommyoftwo said...

I read the book in 2 days. I was EXTREMELY disappointed with the ending. But then I started to think...if hte entire book was written in 2nd person...and Willow is "talking" at the end, then she could not have drowned. I interpreted instead...as her re-telling us her near-drowning experience and then I felt like the book was actually worth reading. Did anyone else interpret like this? That Williow actually survived?

Stacia said...

I started to get suspicious a little before I was halfway through the book so I peeked at the last chapter to see who had written it. I read it, because I have also read My Sister's Keeper. I was so upset. I don't even think I will finish the book or read another of her books again. Picoult's stories can be captivating at times, but I so desperately want things to happen that just never do. Too depressing for me.

mexart said...

I finished this book today. When Is tarted it I figured 5 years would pass and then we would hear Willow talking. Halfway through I realized this was not going to happen. The lawsuit made no sense. I have read other books by Jody P. and liked them. i noticed htis one has no chat site or biikclub questions so maybe it was a flop.

Shelley said...

I just finished reading Handle With Care tonight. The ending made me so angry, that I immediately went to the computer to look up other people's opinions online. I never do this, I am not a "blogger" or whatever, just a college student who love Jodi Picoult and was seriously let down. I really like her books, and when she killed off Anna in My Sister's Keeper, I understood that it prevented her from having to decide whether or not Anna would give the kidney. Basically, she chose the easy way out. But this book's ending drove me nuts. The plot was completely finished: the trial was over; Piper and Charlotte would never reconcile, but Sean and Charlotte did; Amelia returned a "normal teen". But then all of a sudden, for no reason at all, she kills Willow. She died for no reason relating to her disease, and she died on the last page of the novel. It was unnecessary, and I have to say I will never read another one of her books again.

Shelley said...

Also, as a response to Mommyoftwo if you read the recipe, after Willow's drowning experience, it says that she did drown, and that was the cause of her death.

rebecca_555123 said...

shelley,
i did the exact same thing .. and i was a little upset because everything happened for nothing. there was no reason for it at all but then again I guess that is what Jodi Picoult was trying to do. I really did enjoy this book and i honestly could not put it down. After reading what everyone else has said actually makes me sad because this was 1/4 books I got for christmas and you all have seemed to give up. just because one book doesnt live up to your standards from one author , do they all. if you read all the harry potter books and after reading the 6th one (SPOILER ... if you continue SPOILER) where dumbledore dies would you give up and not finish until the end.. but thats just my opinion.. and that was yours. lol but yah , thanks , i was looking for answers because at first the ending didnt make sense and i didnt even read the recipe at the end until now. : ]

Kim-Leigh said...

I read the final paragraphs several times and concluded that Willow was neither alive nor dead. I interpreted that Willow had never actually been born - that Charlotte terminated the pregnancy once the OI was diagnosed. In that case, the entire novel chronicalled Willow's "life" had she actually been born. When I read back over the part where Sean comforted Charlotte after Willow's death, I decided he could have been comforting her after the termination. Perhaps it's just wishful thinking on my part - searching for depth and a twist in a novel for which I had high expectations...

Sophia said...

I HATE THE ENDING!!!!!!!! I absolutely adored Willow! her death ws pointless and tragic!! how COULD jodi picult do that?!?!?! it was a wonderfull book but the ending made me so sad! It was horrible, I want her to right another book saying that WIllows death was only a bad dream.

I miss WIllow! :'(

Tess said...

I've read about 4 Jodi Piccoult books (Nineteen Minutes, My Sisters Keeper, Handle with Care and House Rules). Although she is an excellent writer, I really only enjoyed My Sisters Keeper. I enjoyed Handle with care very much UNTIL the end, which made me pretty annoyed.

Alright. So heres the thing - I totally get My Sisters Keeper's ending. Because (the way I see it) everyone thought everything revolved around Kate, while in reality it was all about Anna, which everyone failed to realize. Anyway, but Handle with care? THE WHOLE BOOK WAS FOR NOTHING. There was a huge build up, broken people, marriage problems, family problems, court cases, ruined friendships and other issues and when its finally all over and they've more or less solved the problem, Willow dies. Just like that. So what was the whole book for?? There was no more chapters after Willow's death. Argh, I don't know. I was so into it but when I turned the last page I literally threw it across the room. It was SUCH a dissapointment.

That said, I love your blog, and I admit Jodi Piccoult writes very well, although most of her books aren't my taste. ♥

Anonymous said...

I like this book because I learned a lot. Even I'm not yet a mother, she made me realized the essence of loving a baby no matter what he/she is. Even the ending is not good, I feel so sick about it but I just bear on my mind that Willow is just having a bad dream and that she is happy with her family. I'll make sure I wont be like Charlotte when I have give a chance to become a mother.

Lea

Morgane said...

When the trial ended and the family was awarded 8 million dollars, I was quite pissed. To be frank, as bad as I felt for Willow she was NOT the person I felt the most sympathy for in this book. I don't know why, I just didn't feel a connection with her. It was too oh poor little Willow, so pretty and smart yet so unlucky to have this condition. Part of me wished she had died sooner the spare everyone else the trouble and the heart ache. It sounds harsh, but it's just hot I feel.

I was really hoping Charlotte would lose the trial instead of everything working out for her.I guess Willows deaths means everything was in vain and well, that kind of makes me happy.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm totally with Shelley. I also had to jump on the computer and look through blogs (which I NEVER do), after just finishing the novel about 10 minutes ago.

I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan. My Sister's Keeper is my all-time favorite book.

But this one was RIDICULOUS. The ending made NO sense. I looked up what Picoult had to say about the ending herself, and found an interview where she says it teaches the lesson "be careful what you wish for". ....WHAT?!?!?! Morbid and unnecessary.

Dominique said...

This is the best review I've read for 'Handle with Care' which frankly I found long-winded and rather tiresome. (I have not read the author's previous offerings so have nothing to compare it with). Frankly, I do not need happy endings to enjoy a book. If it's well written and I CARE about what's going on then it's usually a satisfying read. Not this trip however. Mum Charlotte is particularly irritating. She's more messed up than daughter Amelia. The inter-familial betrayals etc are just plot fodder in the circumstances and what I found REALLY hard to swallow was the vocabulary and articulation of the 5yr old Willow. I can cope with the idea that she's brighter than most 5yr olds but PUH-LEASE! When she comes up with the analogy "Can't you hear it?..."When you love someone, you say their name different. Like it's safe inside your mouth". And there's plenty more pearls of wisdom (masterfully articulated) that it all gets a little too much.
Actually, this was more like a silly soap and not credible.
I'm not going to bother with any other episodes from this author.
Dominique

Anonymous said...

oh m god i totally agree i could not for the life of me understand it at all like why go through the whole thing make a massive deal out of it have broken families and broken friends and then like go and kill her at the end i was so angry with it and well also upset and well mostly confused i love her other books though shes a great writer just confusing is all

Anonymous said...

This book wasn't confusing for me and I'm only 13! Well first of all for all you people saying you hate how it was written and seemed to have no point... Well if I think like you I don't see the point in any books at all except enjoyment. And I also don't understand what was confusing about it.
The blogger's questions ANSWERED!
Okay so she barely thought about the lawuit because all she wanted was to make sure Willow was safe.
Amelia was messed up because she was "forgotten" by friends and family. The point was to have Charlotte only think about Willow to show the horrible screwed up family Sean disapproves of the lawsuit cause he wants Willow to know that they love her which the lawsuit defies The blue hair dye and throwing up and self-harm from Amelia was to show how much Amelia wanted to be noticed
Piper leaves her practice because she needed time to think and probably wouldn't get much work being sued for medical malpractice. She enters interior design because it's a hobby that calms her down
The winnning of the lawsuit and then willow dying was to show that you are to be careful what you wish for as Willow died because she felt she was better by having all this money.
The problem with Charlotte being a practicing Catholic was that it was strictly disaproved of to have an abortion and that was exactly what the lawsuit was saying.
And even though it was hard to diagnose the disease so early there were still odd signs at the ultrasound which should have been looked at further even if it was a new machine.
And Willow died at the end when all was happy because that's how Jodi Picoult wanted it. Also Charlotte put the check in the coffin because the money was Willow's.

Hopes that answers your questions!

Cathy said...

I just finished reading the book 10 minutes ago and found this site by google-ing "ending of Handle With Care" because my mind still can't grasp what happened,why Picoult killed Willow in the end.

I really liked the book and finished it in two days, but when I got to the ending, I was like... Why did Willow even die after everything that happened? If she did have to die, why was it from drowning and not from something associated with OI? What does the death have to do with the book! Why would the author choose to end it this way?

At the end, I read one of her answers to an interview, when asked about the ending, she said "I never wavered on the ending, however, because there's a bit of a morality lesson in there as well- it's a real "Be careful what you wish for" moment.
WHAT does that mean?
I was so disappointed with the ending, I don't think I'd want to read any of her books again...

Anonymous said...

I always start off absoloutely loving her books! I get emotionally involved, I learn to adore the characers, but his one, like all the rest, did have a horribly predictable ending.
It's the kind of ending I would expect from a high school student! To me, killing off the characters on he last page (when not enough thought seems to have gone into the crafting of the death) is the equivalent of writing a story and the end sentence being: "An alarm clock went off, she woke up, it was all a dream". I feel like the ending of all her books are rushed lately.
Very disappointing.

Ελλάδα said...

The issue of whether or not parents should be made aware of disabilities discovered while their child is in utero, so that a decision about whether or not to terminate the pregnancy can be made, is very poignant to today's science and ethics debates. The added hook of bringing in an attorney for the disabled girl's parents who was adopted helped to clarify some of the gray edges that were all over the place in this story.

Anonymous said...

I disliked the ending because I didn't think that it was implicit in the book.

I didn't want Gone With the Wind to end the way it did, but it felt as if it had to have ended the way it die. I felt the same way about Mama Day (Gloria Naylor), and the Doomsday Book (Connie Willis).

The book was engrossing, easy to get caught up in, but I didn't enjoy the book as a whole because of the ending; it left a bad taste in my mouth.

FWIW, I didn't think the description of Piper's legal defense was realistic. They would have called witnesses to the fact that she maintained the expected standard of care of a community obstetrician, not a world expert. She did not withhold information that she had (which would have been harder to defend for a wrongful birth suit), but didn't make the diagnosis of a very rare disease with the bare minimum of ultrasound findings, which does not make her incompetent.

Mary

Anonymous said...

I thought that Willow should of died at least in a way related to OI. Like she has a really bad break, and then because Charlotte had signed the Do Not Resuscitate forms, that Willow would die like that, instead of her falling and drowning. It's frustrating.

Anonymous said...

To help you undersand better, I believe the reason that Jodi Picoult chose for this ending for the book is to make the reader realise that even though you may think you are doing something right that is for a good cause, is it really the right thing to do? I mean Charlotte practictically befriended her best friend and ruined her life. Piper was never the same after that. She caused Amelia, her daughter to become a friendless bulimic, cutter, shoplifting "freak", and almost divorced her husband. And for what? She ended up with just about nothing. Everything she did to ruin her life and everyone elses for Willow were ended the day her beloved daughter died.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand it either. I DON'T understand why she filed a law suit against her BEST FRIEND, which just RUINED her best friend's life. She acted rashly. I mean, I know she did it for her daughter, and I know the lengths as to which a mother would go to just for her child, but she files a case, saying that she wished her child had never been born, all the while telling Willow the exact opposite? And she didn't use the money! And, seriously, does she think Piper MEANT not to tell her? Does she think Piper wanted her best friend's child to have OI? Charlotte filing the case ruined the lives of many people she cared about. Amelia, who lost a best friend, Piper and her family, and even Sean. It's just so infuriating. She seemed to have lost more than gained. And it's just sad, that she lost a best friend, and also a daughter in the end. But "kudos" to Jodi Picoult, for evoking such strong emotions. I just wish I would never have to come across another book such as this again. It's much too stressful for my liking.

Anonymous said...

Initially, I was so engrossed in the ethical dilemma of the book to immediately catch on to the copycat of MSK. The story was well crafted and kept me reading the whole time. But when I got to the end of the book, I was like, hey... I've read this before... That's when I realized that these two books are exactly the same-- a sick girl, a neglected sister, a medical ethical dilemma, a lawsuit that tears the family apart, plaintiff wins lawsuit, and then tragic death happens that makes it all for not. Basically the same formula! Though I was so engaged while reading, this revelation at the end left me feeling totally ripped off.
As unfitting as I found it was, I was waiting for Willow's death to occur in the novel. The eerie 2nd person perspective (everyone referring to Willow as 'you' throughout the novel) made it seem as though the characters were reaching out to a memory of a girl who was no longer with them. However, the cause of death was just so random and sudden. Another thing that bothered me about Willow's character was the acuity and the smarts she had, yet her childlike naiveté when it came to certain things (not knowing what Satan was, not realizing that her family structure was abnormal, some of the questions she asked, etc) It created a very inconsistent character in my opinion. It's hard to go with the brilliant AND innocently adorable.

Anonymous said...

Initially, I was so engrossed in the ethical dilemma of the book to immediately catch on to the copycat of MSK. The story was well crafted and kept me reading the whole time. But when I got to the end of the book, I was like, hey... I've read this before... That's when I realized that these two books are exactly the same-- a sick girl, a neglected sister, a medical ethical dilemma, a lawsuit that tears the family apart, plaintiff wins lawsuit, and then tragic death happens that makes it all for not. Basically the same formula! Though I was so engaged while reading, this revelation at the end left me feeling totally ripped off.
As unfitting as I found it was, I was waiting for Willow's death to occur in the novel. The eerie 2nd person perspective (everyone referring to Willow as 'you' throughout the novel) made it seem as though the characters were reaching out to a memory of a girl who was no longer with them. However, the cause of death was just so random and sudden. Another thing that bothered me about Willow's character was the acuity and the smarts she had, yet her childlike naiveté when it came to certain things (not knowing what Satan was, not realizing that her family structure was abnormal, some of the questions she asked, etc) It created a very inconsistent character in my opinion. It's hard to go with the brilliant AND innocently adorable.

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much! I really wasn't enjoying this book, but I did want to know how it ended. I'm awfully glad I didn't bother to read the rest, given the lousy ending.

Chris Blair said...

Like that better than Willow drowned ng