My Sister’s Keeper
Monday, part 2
From Jesse’s section through end of chapter
Jesse recalls the time he went to boot camp on a farm as a fourteen-year-old. While there, he helped a sheep give birth. The baby sheep almost died, and he thought that, afterward, the sheep always looked like it had seen the other side. In the present, Jesse sits with Kate at the hospital and sees a similar look on her face. They talk about dying, and Jesse asks if she feels afraid. She smiles and says she will let him know. In his head, he tries bargaining to keep Kate alive. Kate tells Jesse how much she will miss him. After she falls asleep, Jesse walks into the hall and punches a wall.
In flashbacks to the morning of the hearing, Brian goes home to look for Anna. He searches Jesse’s room and finds materials that could be used to start a large fire. In the present, Brian gets called to work and leaves the courthouse during the hearing. He goes to the site of a recent arson fire at an abandoned elementary school and finds a cigarette left by the arsonist. At home, Brian accuses Jesse of starting the arson fires. Jesse tries to deny it until Brian shows him the cigarette butt. Jesse breaks down, saying he couldn’t save her (he doesn’t specify who), and asks if Brian has told anyone. Brian hugs Jesse. He thinks he can’t blame Jesse and understands that Jesse chose to use fire for the same reason Brian did: both wanted to control something uncontrollable. Brian resolves not to tell anyone about what Jesse has done.
At the courthouse, Campbell questions Dr. Chance. He asks about Anna’s conception and about any risks to Anna from the procedures she’s undergone or will undergo. Dr. Chance concedes there are some risks and complications, but most of them are minor. Dr. Chance admits that having one kidney might affect Anna later in life and could make it risky for her to play contact sports, such as hockey. He states that up to that point she has not experienced significant harm from any procedures, but she has experienced the benefit of saving her sister. During a recess, Julia asks Campbell if the previous night was a joke to him, and Campbell tells her she doesn’t want to know the real answer. When the hearing adjourns for the day, Campbell drives Anna to the fire station. Once there, Anna confesses that sometimes she hates herself. Campbell says he sometimes feels the same way. Anna asks about Campbell’s relationship with his parents, and he tells her that somewhere along the way he stopped wanting to be like them. Anna tells him that she gets it, that Campbell was invisible, too.
In this section, Jesse once again reveals his vulnerability and compassion. His conversation with Kate at the hospital in which they discuss death is an unusually tender and unguarded moment for him, specifically in that he talks to her honestly and does not disguise his feelings. Clearly they share a very strong bond, though we haven’t seen that bond much in the book to this point. Jesse evidently struggles with the fact that he cannot protect Kate. In one notable memory, he thinks of the time he helped save the baby sheep and how the sheep had a look in its eyes like it had walked on “the other side,” as he puts it. He sees the same look in Kate’s eyes, suggesting that she has come close to death, or may currently be close to death. Jesse, however, cannot save Kate as he did the baby sheep. In frustration at his own powerlessness, he punches a wall after leaving Kate’s room.
That feeling of powerlessness in the face of Kate’s cancer comes up again when Brian realizes that Jesse has been setting the fires all over the city. When Brian confronts Jesse with the cigarette butt he found at the scene of the last fire, Jesse confesses he started the blaze. He also says he “couldn’t save her,” apparently referring to Kate. Brian understands at that point why Jesse has been setting the fires. Jesse wanted to control something uncontrollable, Brian believes, knowing that the specific uncontrollable thing Jesse wanted command over was Kate’s cancer. Because Jesse could not stop the progress of the leukemia, he turned fire into a substitute for it as a way to gain an outlet for his feelings of powerlessness. Brian recognizes the same impulse, and the same relationship to fire, in himself, again creating a parallel between Brian and Jesse.
As Campbell and Anna have grown closer, their similarities have become more apparent. Both have issues with their parents that stem from feelings of self doubt, for instance. Campbell has revealed in his recollections of high school that he couldn’t be the man his father wanted him to be, just as Anna feels she cannot be the person Sara wants her to be. In addition, both Campbell and Anna feel they have hurt someone they love. Campbell hurt Julia by breaking off their relationship, while Anna hurt—and continues to hurt—Sara by refusing to give Kate a kidney, putting Kate near death. Moreover, both Anna and Campbell hide their full motives from the people they’ve hurt. Why Campbell ended his relationship with Julia remains uncertain, though the reason may have something to do with Campbell’s need for a service dog. Anna, similarly, appears to be hiding her reason for bringing the lawsuit.