My Sister’s Keeper
On a rainy morning, Campbell wakes up with Julia at his apartment. Campbell thinks about Judge DeSalvo’s decision and echoes what Anna says. No matter if they win or lose, it won’t be over. Julia tells Campbell she hates his apartment.
In the rain, Jesse goes to a soccer field and lies down. He recalls lying down in other storms, hoping to be struck by lightning so he would feel alive.
Anna thinks about the rain and how it never really stops moving. She notes that rain goes through a cycle, evaporates like a soul into the clouds, and then like everything else, starts over again.
Brian recalls another rainy day, the New Year’s Eve when Anna was born. Brian remembers there were no stars that night. He also remembers his decision to name Anna after Andromeda, a princess in the sky between her mother and father.
Sara gives her closing arguments. She has note cards but quickly abandons them. She tells Anna she loves her and says that every day she wonders if she’s doing the right thing. Sara says that even if Anna and Kate don’t agree with her, she wants to be the one who’s right ten years later, when they are all still together. Sara says she knows the lawsuit was never really about donating a kidney but about choice. She also knows that no one ever really makes decisions by themselves. Sara makes an analogy to a burning building. She says that in her life one child has been in a burning building, and her other child has been the only one who knew the way to save her. She acknowledges that she might be risking the one child to save the other, and that it might be unfair, but it’s the only way she can save both children. She doesn’t know if it was legal or moral, but she knows it was right.
In his closing arguments, Campbell says the case isn’t about donating a kidney, but about a thirteen-year-old girl who deserves the chance to figure out who she is going to be. He says ultimately nothing else matters except what Anna thinks. After a short recess, Judge Desalvo returns with a picture of his daughter, who was killed by a drunk driver. He acknowledges that they have entered into a debate about the quality of life versus the sanctity of life. He says the sanctity of Kate’s life has become intertwined with the quality of Anna’s. He admits there is no good answer, because morals are more important than ethics, and love is more important than law. But he decides that only Anna can decide how to treat her body. He declares her medically emancipated and gives Campbell medical power of attorney. Anna and her parents hug.
Campbell drives Anna to the hospital in the pouring rain. Anna asks Campbell what he thinks she should do, and he says it’s her choice now. Campbell tells Anna he thinks she will be amazing in ten years. Anna thinks about what she wants to be and knows only that in ten years she wants to be Kate’s sister.
Responding to a call, Brian arrives at the scene of a car crash. A large truck has crushed a small car. Campbell’s dog comes whimpering out of the car just as Brian realizes that Anna is one of the passengers. His fellow firefighters try and hold him back, but he insists on pulling Campbell out of the car and then Anna, who is unconscious. At the hospital, Sara finds Brian. He doesn’t know how to explain what happened. Campbell comes out with his arm in a sling and asks about Anna. A doctor tells them that Anna is brain dead and asks if they want to consider organ donation. Brian thinks about twin stars and how the first one can shine so bright that the other may be gone before you notice it. Back in the present, Campbell tells the doctor that he has medical power of attorney over Anna, and a girl upstairs needs Anna’s kidney.
Sara observes that in the English language no word exists for someone who loses a child. After doctors remove Anna’s organs, they bring her back down to the family. Everyone is there, and Sara and Brian sit beside Anna. Sara says she has spent years anticipating the loss of a daughter, but she is still at a loss. Brian reminds Sara that Anna is gone and that her body is just a shell. Finally Brian turns off the respirator. Sara puts her hand on Anna’s chest as her heart stops.
Anna’s sudden death at the end of the chapter creates a dramatic twist in the novel’s storyline. To this point, everyone in the novel (and probably the reader as well) assumed that if any of the Fitzgerald daughters were to die, that girl would be Kate. The accident concludes with Kate finally receiving Anna’s kidney. Anna, consequently, becomes the sacrifice necessary for Kate to live, rather than the one who causes Kate’s death. Anna’s observation that rain never really ends, but rather evaporates and starts all over again, not only foreshadows her death but also her role in saving Kate’s life. Campbell suggests a similar notion when he thinks that, whether they win or lose the case, the ordeal is not over. Both comments state that what appears to be the end may not, in reality, be an end at all, reiterating the theme that appearance may differ from reality. Anna’s comment additionally suggests a metaphorical rebirth or reincarnation. Both apparently refer to the idea that even though Anna dies, she lives on in Kate because her kidney allows Kate to survive.
The major tensions we see in the novel have largely centered on the issue of control. Characters want to control their own bodies, to control Kate’s cancer, and to control the outcomes of their lives. For Anna, the major ethical dilemma she faced centered on her right to deny Kate a kidney, since she has served as Kate’s donor her entire life evidently without having any say in the matter. For Kate, her wish to control her fate centered on whether she should be allowed to deny treatment for her cancer, which would undoubtedly result in her death. But with Anna’s death, these tensions no longer apply. Anna’s battle to make her own choices paradoxically ends with her unable to decide what happens to her body. The question Kate faces becomes moot, because if she rejects the transplant, Anna’s death would have occurred in vain. As the novel reaches its end, the different struggles for control we have seen become suddenly futile.
Sara, in her closing arguments, draws an analogy between saving a child from a burning building and doing what she has to in order to save Kate. As we’ve seen repeatedly in the novel, fire serves as the primary symbol in this analogy, and Sara’s words appear to refer to not only her own actions, but also to Brian’s, who has made these decisions with Sara and has similarly done all he can to save Kate. Sara’s analogy makes the point that she deliberately put Anna at risk because no other means existed to save Kate. Sara acknowledges that, although her actions have not always been fair to Anna, or even legal or moral as she puts it, her actions have been right. Here, Sara draws a distinction between different notions of what is right. What is legal can be considered what the courts define as right. What is moral can be defined as what society deems to be right. Neither of these ideas, however, coincide with Sara’s idea of what is right. Sara, not being a court or society but Kate’s mother, has a different set of criteria for her notion of “right.” For her, saving Kate’s life ranked as her most important consideration, even if it meant causing Anna to suffer. Again, the line between right and wrong appears ambiguous.
In a metaphor that uses both star symbolism and repeats the theme of the bond between sisters, Brian describes twin stars that move in constant rotation around one another, raising two ideas that apply to Anna and Kate. First, the stars orbit each other so closely that, to an observer on Earth, they can appear as one star. In a similar way, Anna and Kate have been inextricably linked since Anna, conceived specifically with Kate in mind, came into existence. Anna, as Kate’s donor, has lived her entire life figuratively in orbit around Kate. Medically, Anna’s history and Kate’s history are inseparable, reiterated by Judge DeSalvo when he points out that Kate’s sanctity of life intertwines with Anna’s quality of life. In addition, Brian notes that one star can often obscure the presence of the other, just as Kate, who drew everyone’s attention because of her cancer, often obscured Anna. Kate and Anna shared an intense and complex bond that forms a substantial part of each girl’s identity. Anna acknowledges repeatedly in the novel that she can’t imagine life without Kate, and even when Campbell asks Anna what she wants to be in ten years, she is only certain that she wants to be Kate’s sister.