In my first memory, I am three years old and I am trying to kill my sister. Sometimes this recollection is so clear I can remember the itch of the pillowcase under my hand, the sharp point of her nose pressing into my palm. She didn't stand a chance against me of course, but it still didn't work. My father walked by, tucking in the house for the night, and saved her. He led me back to my bed. "That," he told me, "never happened."
It's a book that reaches the boundaries of ethics. Three children all crying out for help in different ways; a rebellious son burning down buildings, a 16-year old daughter with cancer silently screaming to be let go, and a 13-year old daughter speaking loudly through a lawsuit against her parents for the rights to her own body. Should one sister be forced to give over her body to save another? Should a mother be forced to choose one daughter over the other? How do you do what is right when it feels so wrong?
As we got older, I didn't seem to exist, except in relation to her. I would watch her sleep across the room from me, one long shadow leading our beds, and I would count the ways. Poison, sprinkled on her cereal. A wicked undertow at the beach. Lightning striking. In the end though, I did not kill my sister. Or at least that's what I tell myself.
Picoult keeps you on the edge both literally and emotionally throughout the novel and doesn't let up until the epilogue. She writes through the views of seven very different perspectives as you walk through the life of this dysfunctional -- for good reason-- family, and live their past, present, and future. As the secrets come out and everything seems to fall into place, she shatters the puzzle over and over again to keep you guessing until the very last page.
I don't want to say anymore in fear that I'll give anything away that needs to be discovered on your own, but I wholeheartedly recommend the novel. I will warn you though, if I was not on a Vamoose bus surrounded by people, I would have shed more than the few tears because family is the most important thing in my life and without it, I would be nowhere. And I sincerely hope that the questions presented in the book are never decisions I have to make.