My Sister’s Keeper
Anna and Sara sit with Kate at the hospital during her dialysis session. Sara talks about kidney donation while Anna thinks about all of the risks associated with the procedure. Vern Stackhouse, a sheriff, comes to Kate’s room. He awkwardly serves Sara papers for the lawsuit Anna has filed for medical emancipation. Sara responds angrily, but before she can talk to Anna about the lawsuit, Kate cries out in pain. Sara goes to Kate’s bedside while Anna runs out of the hospital room. Jesse drives to the hospital to pick Anna up, and they go home.
When Sara and Kate arrive home, Kate runs to her room, and Sara demands to know what Anna is doing. Anna refuses to drop the lawsuit, and despite Brian’s protests, Sara grows even angrier until she slaps Anna. Later, Kate talks to Anna. Kate says that even if she has to lose Anna as a sister she can’t bear the thought of losing her as a friend. Anna doesn’t respond, but in her thoughts admits she couldn’t stand to lose Kate either. Sara and Brian walk into Anna’s and Kate’s room at night. Anna overhears her father saying that maybe Anna’s actions aren’t crazy. He leaves, and Sara sits on Anna’s bed. Anna thinks Sara hates her, but Sara insists she could never hate her. Sara holds Anna and assures her they can fix everything by talking to the judge. Anna only nods.
In 1990, Sara and Brian see an oncologist named Dr. Chance, who will be in charge of Kate’s treatments. Sara calls her older sister, Zanne, whom she has fallen out of touch with, and later Zanne arrives to help the family out. Sara and Brian feel overwhelmed with the list of details and questions facing them about Kate’s cancer and treatment. Since Kate’s form of cancer often resists treatment, the doctors admit they can only do so much. Sara asks what it will be like if Kate dies and wonders how she would survive it. Kate starts chemotherapy and gets extremely sick. The doctors test Jesse to see if he is a genetic match for Kate, since she might need bone marrow if she relapses, but he is not. Dr. Chance tells Sara that if she and Brian have more children, one sibling could be a match. After chemo, Kate develops an infection and has to be rushed to the hospital. While at the hospital, Sara tells Brian she is thinking of having another child. Brian thinks Sara wants to be able to replace Kate if she dies, but Sara assures him she wants to have another child to see if the child would be a genetic match for Kate.
Sara’s angry reaction to Anna’s lawsuit reflects the single-mindedness of her character, which we have seen previously, whereas the other members of the family react in more complex ways. While Sara immediately berates Anna for her choice, Brian insists that his daughter be allowed to explain. As in the previous section, he seems to see—or at least wants to see—all the members of the family. Kate also reacts with concern for Anna. When she talks to Anna, she expresses sadness, not anger. Anna, meanwhile, behaves in contradictory ways. She won’t back down, but she also wants desperately to let her mother fix things. She may be rebelling against her mother’s wishes, but she is not yet strong enough or mature enough to be entirely independent. The reader sees that, despite the very bold step she has taken by filing her lawsuit, Anna is still just a child.
Sara’s description of Kate’s struggle exhibits an almost graphic level of detail. Sara relays all the realities of Kate’s disease, from the names and dosages of Kate’s medicine to the way Kate’s central line looks underneath her chest to the horrific side effects of chemotherapy. These details help to make the story realistic by giving the reader concrete information. But perhaps more importantly, this barrage of information creates for the reader a sense of the overwhelming situation Sara and Brian faced with Kate’s cancer. None of these details were trivial to Sara and Brian because they directly affected Kate’s health and her chances of survival. In providing these specifics, the reader gets an idea of the struggle the Fitzgerald family faced just in arriving at the present point in which the story takes place.
Even without hearing Jesse’s voice directly, we learn much about his character in this section. For instance, he supports Anna in a way that no one else does, without judgment or commentary. A great deal of what the reader knows about Jesse at this point concerns his delinquency, but his behavior toward Anna points to a different aspect of his personality. The details in Sara’s narration about the early days of Kate’s cancer also reveal important information about Jesse. As two-year-old Kate began her struggle, Sara and Brian hoped that Jesse would be a genetic match for Kate, which would allow him to act as her donor and prolong, or potentially save, her life. Jesse, however, was not a match. Sara and Brian, who had already begun shifting their attention to Kate and away from Jesse, paid him even less attention after that, as they began searching for other treatments for Kate. Ever since, Jesse has felt neglected by his parents and guilty for not being able to save Kate. These feelings lie at the heart of his behavior in the present.