Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Please, always and forever... Handle With Care

You cannot read a book by Jodi Picoult without feeling your heart ache. Although this is only the second of hers that I have read, she has a reputation of tackling controversial and emotional family issues. I could spend this blog diving into the moral and ethical issues that arise in Handle With Care, but instead I intend to tell you how this book affected my view of life.

First of all, Picoult handles all her characters with care. Her characters are round and developed. They must be full since they are closely related to each other. Family members see each other in a light different from any other relationship. This becomes immediately clear in her books. Constantly she stretches, challenges, and even breaks the bonds of the family. The relationships of father to daughter, mother to son, sister to sister, and husband to wife are stirred and ultimately rocked by the circumstances within the family. Events outside their control come into play, but often they are confronted and challenged by their own choices. Reading this book, I found myself angry with certain characters, hurt by their actions, and distraught by their reasoning. I also sympathized with certain characters. I could have cried for some of them. I want to scream and help some of them. Picoult vividly writes a story that puts you, the reader, right in the middle of it. Each of her chapters is written from the point of view of one of the characters. (This cannot be easy, switching tones and moods so often, but she executes well). In each of the chapters, you can hear the narrator's feelings in their voice.

The way that she writes each chapter from the perspective of each character is what draws the reader into the story instead of leaving them as an outside observer. She leaves out the main character, Willow, and each chapter is written as an explanation to the things that happened in her life. It's a mother explaining her love through her controversial actions. It's a father loving his daughter, and family, in the simplest way he knows how. It's a struggling sister trying to be noticed and loved in a family that has been torn apart by each other. It's a close friend trying to make sense and cope with a distroyed friendship.

Picoult doesn't downplay even the smallest emotions. She lets every small thought and action surface. She draws you into the family. I began to feel responsible for the actions of the characters. Imperfections were exposed, and by the middle of the book, I felt I could predict the actions and words of certain characters just by knowing them from the beginning of the book. I spent a lot of the book hoping that the better side of each character would step up and redeem the broken relationships. That didn't happen. Just as life doesn't always allow full resolution.

It was a heartwrenching read. This book deals with people and relationships. It's about life, and what drives humans to love. It's not all black-and-white. I appreciate how Picoult approaches the dynamics of a family. Personally, I appreciate how it depicted each character's convictions toward love in a family.

[Read the book. I did not want to give away the events of the story, and most of the story is in the characters anyway.]