Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all well. This post is going to be a review of Jodi Picoult’s brilliant novel ‘Handle With Care’. Various people (friends and family) have been urging me to read some of Picoult’s novels for a while now – so I finally did! So, keep reading to check out my review…
Jodi Picoult is the author of 26 internationally bestselling novels, and is probably one of the biggest names in writing out there currently. ‘Handle With Care’ is Picoult’s 16th novel – it was released in 2009, and was a Sunday Times number one bestseller. She has also written two YA novels with her daughter, Samantha van Leer. Picoult really doesn’t need much of an introduction – so I’ll jump right in to the review.
‘Handle With Care’ centres around Willow O’Keefe, who has Type III Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone disease). Type III means that throughout her life, Willow’s bones will continue to break as she falls or bumps her body, and she’ll most likely gain many other medical problems, aswell as having an estimated shorter life expectancy. The novel follows Willow and her family as they try to deal with the devastating disease, and the many issues that arise alongside that. The novel is not just about a girl with brittle bone disease though. Her parents’ discover that they have the opportunity to sue the obstetrician that worked with the family for wrongful birth. As you can imagine, this is not a straightforward process, and many other complications and problems arise as a result of this.
The novel opens with a very grabbing prologue. The prologue details Willow’s birth, and the complications that arose with her being born into the world (i.e. broken bones!) The prologue caught my attention straight away, and I pretty much knew immediately that this was going to be a tough but moving read. The story then opens with the O’Keefe family trip to Disneyland, and the problems that go wrong during that trip (i.e. more broken bones!) As a reader, it’s clear to see almost straightaway just how tough life is for this family, and that they have many more challenges to come their way.
The narrative is told through the perspectives of Sean (Willow’s father), Charlotte (Willow’s mother), Amelia (Willow’s sister), Piper (the obstetrician/Charlotte’s best friend) and Marin (a lawyer). The structure of the novel is pretty complex, and I often find novels with many voices to be confusing and unnecessary. However, I didn’t feel that way at all about ‘Handle With Care’. All voices were equally valid and each added a whole new dimension to the story. It was very interesting to read the events from the perspectives of such different characters, and how these all interweave. All of the characters have their own individual issues and problems, and Picoult expertly explores a wide variety of issues.
My personal favourite character was probably Amelia. Amelia is very much the “other” child and the outsider – her parents are often so focused on taking care of Willow that they neglect or forget about Amelia. As a character, Amelia absolutely broke my heart. She suffers with some very complex issues, and feels she cannot tell anybody; instead bottling everything up inside and deteriorating slowly. I really sympathised with Amelia and I just wanted to give her a hug and be there for her.
This novel expertly explores marriage, and the obstacles that threaten to drift Sean and Charlotte apart. As a couple, they love each other dearly; but their differing opinions and approaches to Willow’s care and the lawsuit forces a wedge between them. I often found myself wondering whose side I should be on, and questioning who was in the wrong here. But ultimately, I couldn’t choose a side – I could fully understand and sympathise with both of their opinions, but I didn’t favour one over the other. This novel expertly explores the themes of marriage and betrayal, and questions just how strong the bonds of marriage really are.
Piper and Marin are also brilliantly constructed characters. They are not as central to the narrative as perhaps Willow’s family are, but they are still important and interesting characters. Piper is a skilled obstetrician who is also Charlotte’s best friend. But the accusations made against her really test the boundaries of their friendship, and we see how Piper suffers as a result. Marin has her own separate issues to do with her family and her identity, and she struggles to cope with these personal issues and her work on the O’Keefe case.
This novel is definitely an epic read. It’s certainly not an easy read, and the subject matters discussed shouldn’t be taken lightly. The novel discusses the controversial topic of wrongful birth lawsuits, and what it means for a family to go through that process. I would definitely say that you need to go into this novel with an open mind and be ready to learn and be educated. If you’re strongly opinionated about the topic, I wouldn’t suggest reading this!
I definitely learnt a lot from ‘Handle With Care’. Picoult’s writing style is the perfect blend between informative and emotional. The novel included a lot of legal and medical terminology, and did an amazing job of informing me all about brittle bone disease, and about wrongful birth lawsuits. A lot of research clearly went into the writing of this! Another little touch that I really liked was the inclusion of recipes. Charlotte used to be a pastry chef, so the inclusion of recipes is both relevant and interesting. You might pick up a few baking tips reading this!
But the novel is also deeply emotional and moving. I shed a fair few tears in many different parts of the novel, and I was deeply touched. It has very distinct echoes to Picoult’s novel ‘My Sister’s Keeper’. This book is the kind of book that will stay with me for a long time, and I’m so glad I read it. The ending was really heart-warming and emotional. Obviously I’m not going to discuss it here – you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself! I had become so attached to the O’Keefe family over the 551 pages of the novel (yes, it’s a long novel!), and I just didn’t want the story to ever end. I want to follow them for the rest of their lives and find out what happens to them in the future. A sequel would be amazing!
Overall, this book made me feel sad, angry, heartbroken, happy, joyful and lucky. After reading this, I feel so lucky to have a healthy and strong family. This is a really important read, and I’m very glad that I took the time to read it. I feel like this novel has changed my life, and will stay with me for a very long time. This book is going straight on my “favourites” shelf, and I’ll definitely be reading more of Picoult’s novels in the future!
Happy reading 🙂