[SPOILERS follow, although if you’ve yet to see My Sister’s Keeper, you’re not missing anything.]
When I first read My Sister’s Keeper, I was devastated. The tale, told from multiple points of view, centers on a teenager with leukemia, Kate, and her younger sister, Anna, who was conceived solely to be a possible donor match for her dying big sister. But one summer, following many painful procedures, Anna decides she doesn’t want to be part of her sister’s medical treatments anymore and sues her parents for medical emancipation. The whole family struggles with the fact that if Anna stops her treatments, Kate will die.
The book grapples with big questions about medical ethics and family responsibilities. It’s a gripping, emotional read, especially in the final pages where, after it comes out that Anna is only stopping the treatments at Kate’s wishes, a judge emancipates Anna from her parents, allowing the choice to be hers. Shortly after that, readers learn that Anna died in a freak car accident, and her kidney was donated to Kate after all — who now, years later, is healthy but without her sister.
It was a great book, and with a cast of compelling characters, it could have been a phenomenal movie — but instead, the 2009 film, directed by Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) and starring Cameron Diaz as the mom and Abigail Breslin as Anna, was a total hacky mess because someone at the studio had the bright idea to totally change the ending (over complaints from book author Jodi Picoult). The film has Kate, not Anna, pass away in the shocking final moments, thereby changing the entire trajectory of the story. Any theme about the fragility and randomness of life one could read onto the tale was totally shot — or at least misdirected.
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