Jodi Picoult

A great book spoiler sent in by Wendy who says...
"This was a very good book, but I feel like the twist at the end was too reminiscent of My Sister's Keeper."

Cast of Characters:

  • Willow O'Keefe - a genius of a 6 year old who was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a disease which caused her to have four broken bones even before she left the womb.
  • Charlotte O'Keefe - mother of Willow and Amelia.  Former pastry chef, now stays at home to be on call whenever Willow needs her.
  • Amelia O'Keefe - Willow's half sister.  She resents all the attention Willow gets, hates that she has to give up on having a normal life.  She is a cutter and also bulemic.  Five years older than Willow
  • Sean O'Keefe - Policeman, father of Willow, adoptive father of Amelia.
  • Piper Reece - OB/GYN and Charlotte's best friend.  Did not notice anything wrong with Willow until Charlotte's 27 week sonogram.
  • Marin Gates - the attorney that Charlotte O'Keefe hires to bring a medical malpractice suit against Piper Reece.  Was given up for adoption at birth, and has a bit of an obsession with finding her birth mom.

At the beginning of the book, the O'Keefe family is headed to Disney World.  They are trying to achieve a semblance of a normal family.  Charlotte reminds her older daughter to pack "the note".  This is a note from a doctor detailing Willow's condition, in case an emergency arises and they are at a hospital with now way of proving where all of Willow's fractures come from.  As it turns out Amelia forgets the note.  They haven't spent much time in the Magic Kingdom before Willow slips on a napkin and is rushed to the hospital.  Since they are unfamiliar with her medical history, they express concern over Willow's breaks and eventually call the Department of Family Services.  The case-worker has her mind made up and so Amelia's statement is taken as damning evidence and the parents are escorted to the police department while Willow remains at the hospital and Amelia is sent to a foster home for the night.  In the wee hours of the morning they reach one of their doctors who can confirm Willow's diagnosis and the family are reunited, their vacation ruined and their dignity all but destroyed.  Once they are back home, Sean decides to visit a lawyer so he can reclaim some sense of justice.  The lawyer's tell him that he probably does not have enough grounds to sue these people, but that a medical malpractice suit, a 'wrongful birth' suit, might have some weight.  The lawyers explain that the O'Keefes would basically have to stand up in court and say that, had they known Willow would have this problem, they would have terminated the pregnancy.  Sean flatly refuses, but the seed of doubt is planted in Charlotte's head.

When Willow was an 18 week fetus, the sonogram tech remarked to Piper that the image looked very clear.  Piper dismissed it as being new technology, and was only concerned with looking for Down's Syndrom markers, because Charlotte was 38 years old.  The OI diagnosis wasn't discussed until the fetus was 27 weeks, when a spur-of-the-moment sonogram revealed Willow's broken bones.  When she was born, she had four healing fracturs, recieved three more just from the nurse handling her, and suffered a broken rib and punctured lung all within her first days.  Growing up, she had a normal personality, very advanced mental and linguistic capacities, and a desire to do two things that were impossible - swim and ice skate on the pond beside her house.

Willow's care is expensive.  Insurance covers most of their hospital visits, but not all.  The drugs that are improving Willow's quality of life are part of a clinical trial, but once she reaches a certain age she will no longer qualify and they will be out of pocket.  Insurance will also only fit her for things like a custom wheelchair once every five years, which means that currently six year old Willow is squeezed into a wheelchair designed for her 2 year old body.  Braces have to be custom fitted, rods have to be tethered to her bones, and when she reaches the driving age she will qualify for exactly one custom-fitted vehicle FOR LIFE.

Attorney Marin Gates grew up well-adjusted, loved by her adoptive parents.  She's known she was adopted from a young age, but is only seeking out her birth mother after a recent health scare that left her curious about her family history.  Even with a few fences cleared by virtue of being a lawyer, she still keeps coming up with dead ends.  She actually takes the advice of a person in a chatroom for people in her situation and goes to see a psychic, one that leads her to the county courthouse again, where she finally recieves word that the clerk has a current address on file, and will get a letter to Marin's birth mom.

Charlotte decides to go ahead with the lawsuit.  At first, she gets Sean onboard, but he quickly realizes the emotional price of this, and becomes a witness for the defendent's side.  As the trial wears on, it puts a strain on his marriage, and eventually he and Charlotte seperate - still cohabitating in the same house but with Sean sleeping on the couch. 

At one point, Charlotte and the girls go on a baking frenzy (the book is littered with delicious pastry recipes) which lead to them first selling their goods from a wheelbarrow parked outside their home, and then Charlotte making baked goods for a chain of Gas-n-Gos.  This deal earns them enough extra money to fly to Omaha for a conference for patients with OI.  Willow is ecstatic to be "normal", she makes friends and even gets to go swimming!  Amelia develops a crush on a cute boy suffering from a less serious type of OI, and Charlotte is acosted by several irate parents and patients, because by now her story has made it into the news and onto the blogosphere.

Back to reality, Sean has served Charlotte with divorce papers, and they are staying out of each others way.  Amelia vows that if her family can get put back together, she will stop cutting, purging, and shoplifting.  When the boy she met at the conference breaks up with her over the phone, she becomes devestated and begins cutting again.  Willow sees her doing this, but doesn't tell her parents.

The trial begins, and Willow has begun to think that this is all her fault, and that her mom is going to send her away.  She's not perfect, she breaks, and things that break get thrown out.  One night, during the trial, she goes to the bathroom while Amelia is studying.  After Amelia realizes that Willow has been in there for a long time, she kicks the door down and finds her sister covered in blood.

Meanwhile, a juror from the trial has been let go because of conflict of interest.  It turns out that she is Marin Gates's birth mother.  She tells Marin that some babies just shouldn't be born.

In the hospital, Willow says that she just wanted to try it, because when she looked in on Amelia, she looked so happy. Piper has heard about what Willow did, and as she dicusses it with her husband, her daughter (who was Amelia's best friend until the lawsuit started) reveals that she knew about Amelia's purging and cutting, and that's probably where Willow got the idea.  Piper tells Sean, who tells Charlotte, and they agree to get Amelia some treatment.  However, Amelia doesn't like this being decided for her, and goes up on the witness stand to tell everyone that she knows her mother is lying, and that she doesn't actually believe she would have had an abortion, if given the option at 18 weeks instead of 27.  Even with this information, the jury rules in favor of Charlotte, and awards the family $8 million.

Marin goes to see her birth mother and demands to know what was so awful with her that she should have been aborted.  Her birth mother reveals that she was raped and beaten, and was only starting to recover when she discovered she was pregnant.  Marin was not only an emotional but a physical reminder of her attack.  Marin thanks her for giving her up for adoption to two loving parents.

In the aftermath of the trial, Piper and her family have relocated, Sean and Charlotte have patched up their marriage, and Amelia went to a treatment center and returned with a healthier state of mind and a solace in painting.  They have not yet cashed the check, they are making do, but they plan to do it eventually.  Charlotte is writing a cookbook and plans to donate the proceeds to the OI foundation.  She tells Willow to go find her sister so they can go see a movie or something.

Willow wanders down to the pond to find her sister, and sees that it is still iced over.  She crawls on her hands and knees (so she won't fall) and sort of slides around on the ice.  Suddenly it splinters and she falls through, unable to even scream for help.

As Charlotte O'Keefe kisses her daughter for the last time, she puts the check for $8 million inside her coffin.