HANDLE WITH CARE by Jodi Picoult

HANDLE WITH CARE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In another issue-driven novel, Picoult (Change of Heart, 2008, etc.) explores the impact of “wrongful birth” litigation on an ordinary New Hampshire family.

Charlotte O’Keefe, a prominent pastry chef, was thrilled when she conceived at age 38 without resorting to fertility treatments. Although she has a daughter, Amelia, by a previous relationship, she and her new husband, police officer Sean, wanted a child of their own. Charlotte’s best friend Piper unwisely agrees to be her OB-GYN. Eighteen weeks into the pregnancy, during a routine ultrasound, Piper, looking for signs of possible Down syndrome, discounts the import of the fetus’s unusually transparent cranium. At 27 weeks, another ultrasound reveals that Charlotte’s daughter has sustained several fractures in utero, a sign that she suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a rare congenital defect that causes brittle bones and severe complications (including scoliosis, respiratory problems and years of costly orthopedic interventions). Now age six, Willow, still toddler-sized, cannot walk, play or even turn over in bed without risking a compound fracture. Charlotte abandoned her career to care for Willow 24/7. Although Willow is precocious intellectually and for the most part a joy to be around, her illness is, inarguably, a drain on family finances and emotions. After a vacation at Disney World goes horribly awry, the O’Keefes spiral apart. Charlotte decides to file a wrongful-birth lawsuit against Piper. The proceeds from the lawsuit, she rationalizes, would provide the quality of lifetime care Willow needs, even if suing amounts to betrayal. Sean is appalled by the implications of the lawsuit: that Willow should never have been born, and that Charlotte, if properly cautioned, would have contemplated abortion. Amelia, once a normal teen, becomes a bulimic, self-mutilating shoplifter.

Picoult’s strengths are evident in her exhaustively researched and gut-wrenching demonstration of OI’s devastating effects and the impact of a child’s disability on a sibling. However, too often characterization takes a back seat to polemic. Worse, the central moral quandary is undermined by an overly pat resolution.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9641-0
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2009




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Kirkus Interview
Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer
authors of OFF THE PAGE
May 19, 2015

Meet Oliver, a prince literally taken from the pages of a fairy tale and transported into the real world. Meet Delilah, the girl who wished Oliver into being. In bestseller Jodi Picoult and her daughter Samantha van Leer’s new young adult novel, Off the Page, it’s a miracle that seems perfect at first—but there are complications. To exist in Delilah’s world, Oliver must take the place of a regular boy. Enter Edgar, who agrees to play Oliver’s role in the pages of Delilah’s favorite book. But just when it seems that the plan will work, everything gets turned upside down. We talk to the mother-daughter team on Kirkus TV. View video >

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