Skip to main content

Handle with Care: A Book Review

From Picoult's website:
When Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe’s daughter, Willow, is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, they are devastated – she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain.
As the family struggles to make ends meet to cover Willow’s medical expenses, Charlotte thinks she has found an answer. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn for not telling her in advance that her child would be born severely disabled, the monetary payouts might ensure a lifetime of care for Willow. But it means that Charlotte has to get up in a court of law and say in public that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she’d known about the disability in advance – words that her husband can’t abide, that Willow will hear, and that Charlotte cannot reconcile. And the ob/gyn she’s suing isn’t just her physician – it’s her best friend.
Each character in the book tells his or her version of the story to Willow. This format is nothing new to Picoult as she did something very similar in My Sister's Keeper. In fact, those who are familiar with Picoult's books know that this story does not have a happy ending; her stories never do. (Note: Picoult's book, My Sister's Keeper, is vastly different from the movie, starring Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin.)

The book challenges me as a reader, a special education educator and as a Christian. Centered around the lawsuit is the question: How disabled is too disabled? In fact, Charlotte's lawyer brings up a question that is undoubtedly on most pro-lifer's minds:
"And it's a slippery slope - if an OB decides a kid with brittle bones shouldn't be born, what's next? A prenatal test for low IQ, so you can scrap the fetus that won't grow up and get into Harvard?" (page 53)

However, on the other side of the coin, Picoult addresses the physical, emotional and even financial implications of extreme disabilities:
"Your first seven breaks happened before you entered this world. The next four happened minutes after you were born, as a nurse lifted you out of me. Another nine, when you were being resuscitated in the hospital, after you coded. The tenth: when you were lying across my lap and suddenly I heard a pop. Eleven was when you rolled over and your arm hit the edge of the crib. Twelve and thirteen were femur fractures; fourteen a tibia; fifteen a compression fracture of the spine. Sixteen was jumping down from a stoop; seventeen was a kid crashing into you on the playground; eighteen was when you slipped on a DVD jacket lying on the carpet. We still don't know what number nineteen. Twenty was when Amelia was jumping on a bed where you were sitting; twenty one was a soccer ball that hit your leg too hard; twenty-two was when I discovered water[proof casting materials and bought enough to supply and entire hospital, now stocked in my garage. Twenty-three happened in your sleep; twenty-four and twenty-five were a fall forward in the snow that snapped both forearms at once. Twenty-six and twenty-seven were nasty fractures, fibula and tibia tenting through the skin at a nursery school Halloween party, where ironically, you were wearing a mummy's costume whose bandages I used to splint the breaks. Twenty-eight happened during a sneeze; twenty-nine and thirty were ribs you broke on the edge of the kitchen table. Thirty-one was a hip fracture that required a metal plate and six screws. I stopped keeping track after that, until the ones from Disney World, which we had not numbered but instead named Mickey, Donald, and Goofy." (page 105)

If you're looking for answers, this book will not provide it. Instead, it will give you a million more questions to consider. I get very wrapped up in books to the point of rooting for a character or absolutely despising them. I think Picoult is brave for writing her characters in such a way that you can hate them (or love them) in one chapter and feel the reverse in the next. Charlotte is this type of character for me. I'm sure it's not a coincidence that the character I struggled the most with emotionally was the mother.

One thing I did notice in Handle With Care, was that it was very similar to My Sister's Keeper. The characters "felt" the same. Both moms were overbearing to a fault, the dads were trying to be the "good guys", and the siblings got lost in the shuffle and exhibited self-destructive behavior. Because of this, I knew that the ending wasn't going to be happy and it wasn't.

Picoult is to books what M. Knight Shyamalan is to movies; all of her books have huge plot twists - none of them particularly happy. In fact, I've found, that most of her books leave me feeling frustrated. "Can she write a happy ending just once?"

No. Because that's not the kind of writer she is and I think that is part of her charm. People pick up her reads to be challenged and I think part of the reason why Picoult never sums up her books with a "buttoned up and beautiful" mentality is because that's not real life. Storybook fairy tales do not exist. Yes, there are magical moments to be gleaned from the every day, but there is no palace, princesses, and knight in shining armor.

As always, I would recommend Picoult's books. In face, I'm heading to the library this morning to pick up another. I'm a glutton for punishment.

This post may contain affiliate links.


Popular posts from this blog

Life as a Paraprofessional vs Life as a Teacher: Part 1

hyena reality Eventually, I will write a lovely end-of-the-year post (probably entitled something original like: "What I Learned as a First-Year Teacher"), but this morning, I want to write about something a little bit different. The differences between  my life as a paraprofessional (teacher assistant)  and my life as a teacher . I'm sure many of you are aware that I began my life as an educator, not in the classroom, but in a lunchroom. After I had home schooled The Boy and Baby Girl for a couple of years, it became apparent that it wasn't working out any more and some changes needed to be made in our family. So, on that fateful day in November, I dropped both of the kiddos off at the Little Elementary School Around the Corner, The Boy, a 4th grader and Baby Girl, a 1st grader, while I headed off to work in the school cafeteria.  As a substitute cafeteria worker, filling in for the ladies who had to be out for whatever reason at various schools around

One of a Million New Year's post

Look around and you'll see that most everyone is posting some type of New Year's blog post this week. Check your blog rolls (or mine) for proof. I've looked at A Year in Review blogs, the best of the best blogs, most read posts blogs and my favorite: the new year resolutions (solutions, challenges, etc). Call me crazy, but I love these type of blog posts the best. Why? Because while most of us never keep our resolutions longer than a few hours days weeks months, there is something magical about the New Year. It is a chance to change whatever it is that was messed up for you during the previous year. Common resolutions include: 1. Stop smoking 2. Lose weight 3. Get organized 4. Save more 5. Spend less 6. Get to the project that is sitting in the basket, closet, or garage 7. Spend more time with family Did I hit them all? These are on most people's lists. (By the way, stay tuned for the end of this post for links to sites that can actually attempt to acc

Life as a Paraprofessional vs. Life as a Teacher: Part 3

This is the third part to a 3-part series chronicling my take on the differences between a job as a paraprofessional and a job as a teacher. (View Part 1 here and Part 2 here .) Let me preface this list by saying that I believe that paras and teachers have the potential to equally rock the education world. They can love and nurture students in a way that only an educator can. They can help students become great. That said - there are some definite differences between paraprofessionals and teachers. This list is not to say one is better than the other. Rather this is meant as a tongue-in-cheek comparison of how I perceive the differences of a paraprofessional's job and a teacher's job. (And any teacher who has worked as a para or vice versa should be able to relate to my list.) Paraprofessionals Vs Teachers Calendar Reduction Days – “Yay! I get another day off. Yeah, it kind of stinks that it’s a Calendar Reduction Day, but hey – a day of