Handle with Care
Some books are hard to talk about with giving away too much. Jodi Picoult's Handle With Care is one of these. Anyone reading a summary will get a feel for the plot. Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe have two daughters, Amelia and Willow and could be the picture of the average American family. But average they are not as Willow suffers from a rare, disfiguring disease, osteogenesis imperfecta, a disorder which causes bones to break easily.
The story beings with Charlotte as narrator. “Things break all the time. Glass, and dishes, and fingernails. Cars and contracts and potato chips. You can break a record, a horse, a dollar. You can break the ice. There are coffee breaks and lunch breaks and prison breaks. Day breaks, waves break, voices break. Chains can be broken So can silence , and fever.” Picoult is the queen of metaphor and references to break and broken are peppered throught the book. As Willow grows and medical costs rise the O'Keefe's must find a way to foot the bill. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn who did not tell her that her child would be severely disabled, and if they win the lawsuit, the resulting compensation would ensure Willow would get the care she deserves. It also means that Charlotte must say that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she’d known about the disability in advance. To add another element to her dilemma, the ob/gyn is not only her physician but her friend.
Picoult twists this story every which way and that, almost too much for me. She puts the whole family, Charlotte, Sean, Amelia, the family of Piper (ob/gyn), the lawyers, both sides, plaintiff and defendant, the community, the whole lot, under a very powerful microscope and dissects them piece by piece. It can be painful to read.
Jodi Picoult is my adopted author. This means I sponsor her books at my public library. I do this as I have been a fan since I read Plain Truth many years ago. Though in all I learned a great deal from reading Handle With Care, I wouldn't say it is Picoult's best effort. Without spoiling the story for others here are my complaints. First, I believe the use of single narration, each character, telling their story in solo chapters, has been overdone by Picoult. I want something new. There's way too much use of, for a lack of better word, gimmick. I didn't think I'd ever say that but for me, this tactic makes the whole less believable and satisfying. Her characters are well developed, almost too much so. And the plot twists; well, twists too much. Saying this I'll still give it a four out of a five star. I cared about the characters, some made me angry, some made me cry. I learned a great deal. The exploration of relationships is Picoult at her best. In the end I was left with lots to think about. The story will stay with me and I would like to discuss it with friends. So what's my problem? Perhaps my overall pique is is just being plain picky. What more do I want from a book? Perhaps you can tell, I'm compromised in my opinion, on the one hand this, on the other, that; left a bit unbalanced in the end. As I hold Jodi Picoult in high esteem, I want a little less gimmick a bit less analyzing of every angle with the end result being the sum of the fine storyteller Picoult is. Read Handle with Care for yourself and see what you think.