Monthly Archives: February 2008

MY SISTER’S KEEPER BY JODI PICOULT

my-sisters-keeper-9781741145052.jpg Allen and Unwin (Australia), 423 pages

“When I was little, the great mystery to me wasn’t how babies were made, but WHY.”

13-year old Anna Fitzgerald questions her existence because she was brought to the world (concieved through IVF) for only one purpose: to keep her older sister, Kate, alive.

When she was 2 years old, Kate was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia and could only be kept alive through a blood/bone marrow/organ donor whose genetic makeup is exactly as hers. Unfortunately at that time, not her mother, father, or older brother fit in the profile. So her parents, Brian and Sara Fitzgerald desperately had another genetically engineered baby in order to keep their eldest daughter.

And that’s how Anna’s life has come to be–the moment she was born, blood was extracted from her umbilical cord and given to her sister. Although perfectly normal, she’s been going in and out of the hospital for invasive surgeries that will help sustain her sister.

Although she loves her sister dearly, Anna also wants complete independence and ownership of her body. The book begins when she makes a decision that rattles her already quite dysfunctional family: she hires a lawyer to get medical emancipation from her family.

I like how this book has a very morally controversial topic. On first overview, it seems completely wrong (i still believe it is) to have a child for the wrong reasons. Or have a child just to save another one. If it’s just a one-off thing, sure it is justifiable. But to bound a child throughout her life to just being another child’s sustainance is just unfair.

As Sara Fitzgerald explains:

“[if a] building was on fire, and one of my children was in it–and the only opportunity to save her was to send in my other child, because she was the only one who knew the way. Did I know I was taking a risk? Of course. Did I realize it meant maybe losing both of them? Yes. Did I understand that maybe it wasn’t fair to ask her to do it? Absolutely. But I also knew that it was the only chance I had to keep both of them. Was it legal? Was it moral? Was it crazy or foolish or cruel? I don’t know. But I do know it was right.”

A story such as this just has to dramatic–and it is indeed full of emotions, recollections and thoughts–told in all characters’ point of view. For a time I thought I was going to hit a dragging mode but it quickly picked up and had a momentous (climatic hollywood) ending.

I didn’t quite like: Campbell Alexander and Julia Romano’s subplot romance–which acts as a romantic/comedic relief to the novel. It’s just abit..out of place and ho-hum cliche.

The characters’ lines are all worth quoting. Each speaking part (especially Kate’s and Anna’s) has that ooomph-that’s-deep effect. Making Anna such a sarcastically witty character makes the dialogues very movie-ish. It was almost like reading an award winning screenplay unfold.

(AND LO AND BEHOLD) Fresh from Wikipedia:

There are plans by New Line Cinema to turn My Sister’s Keeper into a feature film, to be released sometime in 2008. Nick Cassavetes is attached to direct it.[1][2] It will star Cameron Diaz as Sara and Alec Baldwin as Campbell.[2] Dakota and Elle Fanning were originally set to play the sisters but Dakota changed her mind when she found out she would have to shave her head to play the leukemia-suffering character of Kate. Elle dropped out along with her sister, and they were replaced with Sofia Vassilieva and Abigail Breslin.[2]

Dakota and Elle Fanning would have been perfect for the roles. But Cameron Diaz?? Come on…the girl can’t do drama. I was thinking more of Toni Colette. SHE would be perfect. A torn, distraught mother but determined to keep her daughter alive.

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Jodi Picoult

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

12093599.jpg Harper Perennial. 291 pages

I’ve read many second generation Asian/Whathaveyou-American novels that are all pretty much about parents’ plight to the Golden country, and their ungrateful/confused, Coca-Cola speaking children who marry white-Americans.

I thought I would be in for the same ride with The Namesake. True, it has the above formula, but it is so very well written that I dare say it’s the best novel of this genre that I have ever read. And it gave me such an opening insight on Bengali culture, which I have been so in the dark of before. I almost always know what I’m going to be in for before reading these books–heavy guilt-trip, gratefulness (that my own family/culture isn’t THAT traditional), and a few tears every now and then.

But this book–it touched me way down deep. Gogol Ganguli feels that he cannot advance in his life if he kept his name. His father named him after the Russian novelist, Nikhail Gogol. But it’s more than just a reason of literary preference that he got given this name. His father believes that Gogol (the author/book) has saved his life.

Gogol (not the author/book) on the otherhand, despises his name and grows to resent not just how it is spelled and pronounced–but even his family’s ways and tradition. So when he gets the chance to, he changes his name in the hopes of changing everything “Gogol”.

But as all good stories should be (and that is not sarcastic), he painfully discovers that there is much more to changing one’s name, and soon learns to embrace the things he tried to leave behind–family, ways, and name.

Can I just say–the movie version SIMPLY WAS A DISGRACE to such a beautiful work. Not only has it massively chopped off everything that made the book its worth–it also stripped the book off its soul. To sum it up, the movie only portrayed the cover and back synopsis of the book–nothing in between.

Kal Penn (whose real name is Kalpen Modi) plays Gogol. In real life, he may be perfect to play the role, after all he also did change his name to a more western sounding one in order to get more casting calls. But Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli he certainly is not. Did not even play the part close. I like him–I think he’s hilarious. But now I’m sure he knows that he should just stick to comedy.

Very remarkable though, was Irfan Khan’s performance, who played Ashoke–Gogol’s father. HE made me cry.

Indian actress TABU played Ashima, Gogol’s mother. She’s very lovely, good performance. (Not as good as Khan). But their performances really, were much much better than Kal Penn, and whoever played the role of Sonia (sister) nor Moushumi (Zuleikha Robinson).

Tabu, Zuleikha Robinson, and Jacinda Barett played Ashima, Moushumi, and Maxine respectively.

Kal Penn presenting his mother’s worst nightmare: a white girlfriend.

As beautiful as her words–author Jhumpa Lahiri

This book deserves 7 out of 5 stars. THAT good.

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

1195577796-9425-0.jpgVintage (Random House), 274 pages.

“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”

Rebecca Davitch was once the quiet scholarly type. One who would prefer books over socialising and parties. But here she is now in her 50’s, widowed, a professional party hostess, everybody’s ‘yes-woman’ and taking care of everybody’s comfort and hapiness but hers.

Because of a fateful dream one night, of her riding on a train with a young man who was understood to be her son (in the dream)–she gets into a  nostalgic mode for days on end. First of all, she doesn’t have a son. Second, all her step-daughters and daughter were not the serious thoughtful types (as was the young man in her dream).

So she muses what her life would have been like had she stayed on and married her highschool sweetheart–Will Allenby, the thoughtful and serious type. Because she used to be just that type (studious, deep, observant), she wonders how she had turned into the person she now is.

She then tries to ‘revert’ back to her old self–from reading autobiographies to even trying to contact her highschool sweetheart.

Simple plot, complex , real and warm feelings, diverse zany family members–Back When we Were Grownups is a real Anne Tyler work. ‘A comedy of manners’, as one reviewer has put it, is Anne Tyler’s very distinct trademark.

This book is not as strong as Digging to America, but throughout the story, one could see the beginning ideas/formulation of Digging to America (Tyler’s latest novel). Mulitcultural families, a ‘welcoming’ ceremony for a newborn baby, and the idea of adopting Asian babies, dysfunctional but hopeful families.
Nevertheless, this book still has that ‘only Anne Tyler Can!’ vibe that is warm and givng.

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A CBS Hallmark Special presentation of Back When we Were Grownups. Blythe Danner plays Rebecca Davitch.

The Toyboy Diaries: A Memoir by Wendy Salisbury

0732286905.jpgHarper Collins Publishers. 293 pages.

“I like older men but I couldn’t eat a whole one. A younger man? That’s another story.”

So claims Wendy, an over 60 year old woman with a vigor for younger (much much younger) men.

This whole..er…sex memoir (?) is like a rated-R blog that panned out in book form. I honestly can’t say very much about it. Other than its  like watching/reading a marathon run of SATC+DESPERATE GRANDMA.

Ok for one, I do admire her brazen personality, she who doesn’t care what others may think. The last words of this book were, “Fuck you very much!” (quoting Eric Idle). But at times it seems very much like harassing and exploiting younger men.

But as she explains, its just nature’s way of redressing the balance. Throughout history, it’s always been an older man + much younger woman pairing. But with more empowered women nowadays, many of them take the lead and get in control.

If you are tempted to tell her ‘Shag someone from your generation!”, here’s her reply:

“Although they’re my generation, I feel totally disconnected from them. They’ve let themselves go which is really unappealing. I know loads of attractive, sexy, vibrant older women but the men…eeuw! They think they can pull you because they’ve got money and a pulse and that any single woman is desperate for a man at any cost. Personally, I’d rather eat pizza with (younger men) than caviar with any of them.”

the very happy. author.