My Sister’s Keeper
Thursday, part 1
From Brian’s section through Sara’s section
Julia meets Brian at the fire station and helps him cook breakfast. They discuss Anna, and Brian hesitates to state his opinion. He thinks about an incident where he saved a child from a burning building. Brian admits he became a firefighter to save people but wishes he could have been more specific about who to save. He asks Julia if he can take her to meet someone but doesn’t say who the person is.
Julia rides with Brian in his car. In flashbacks, we see Julia at her apartment sobbing the previous night after Campbell left, then going to a bar where she drinks heavily. She remembers how Campbell felt attracted to her because she was different from everyone else at their school. They would meet after school in the cemetery and talk. One day Campbell told Julia he loved her, and they had sex.
In Brian’s car, he tells Julia they named Anna after the galaxy, Andromeda. They find Anna at the house and decide to all go to the hospital together. Anna confesses to Julia that she fears Kate will hate her. Outside the hospital room, Sara begs Julia not to tell Kate that Anna has not dropped the lawsuit. She also insists to Julia that she loves both of her daughters. Julia and Kate talk alone. Julia asks about Jesse, and Kate says that he gets into a lot of trouble because it’s his only way of being noticed. Kate talks about a year where she got sick on almost every single holiday and how hard that was for Anna.
In 1996, Sara throws Kate a party for her eighth birthday. Kate has been in remission for five years, but soon after the party Kate relapses. She starts on a new medication in an attempt to put her in remission. In the midst of this, Jesse reminds Sara she promised to take him to get new cleats after his orthodontist appointment. Sara tells him they can’t do either, so Jesse attempts to pry his braces off his teeth with a fork. The new medication works at first, but Kate develops a resistance. Dr. Chance recommends a donor lymphocyte infusion from Anna. Brian suggests it might not be a good idea to make Anna donate blood, since he and Sara only agreed she would act as a donor for Kate once. Concerned about Kate, Sara dismisses the concern.
Anna arrives at the hospital to give blood and screams and cries during the procedure. Later, when the doctors need to take more blood, Sara forces Anna to leave a birthday party early. A month later, Anna has to donate blood a third time. Sara also talks about finding Kate’s goldfish nearly dead. Desperate to save it, she calls a marine biologist who helps her revive the fish.
Both Brian and Sara tell stories about going to great lengths to save someone or something. Specifically, Brian talks about saving a child from a fire, and Sara recounts her efforts to save Kate’s goldfish. In their stories, neither parent expresses happiness over the outcome of their action. Though neither Brian nor Sara says so explicitly, both apparently feel frustrated by the fact that they cannot help Kate, the person they really want to save. Saving someone else, or even something as small as a goldfish, regardless of the good it does, serves as a reminder of their helplessness against Kate’s cancer. Brian, for instance, says he became a firefighter to save people. But he says he should have been more specific about whom he wanted to save.
Dark matter, which Brian discusses in the car with Julia, serves as a metaphor for all the secrets the characters keep hidden from view, but which still have a clear influence on the character’s actions. Brian tells Julia that the universe is mostly made up of dark matter, which can’t be seen or felt. She asks how anyone knows it’s there, and he answers that it has a visible effect on the objects around it. By this point, we have indications that Anna, Jesse, and Campbell all hide something from other people, though we only know Jesse’s secret about starting fires thus far. Anna’s secret concerns her motivation for bringing the lawsuit against her parents. It remains unclear whether she did it to get attention, because she genuinely does not want to give up a kidney for Kate, or for some other reason entirely. Campbell, similarly, does not want to reveal why he needs Judge, but his secret appears to be what causes him to occasionally stop whatever he is doing and leave the room.
More and more, we see examples of how Kate’s cancer also takes a toll on the other children in the Fitzgerald family. Through Sara’s narration, for example, we once again see instances of Jesse being ignored, and we see the early ways he starts to lash out. When Sara won’t take him to the orthodontist and then to get new cleats as she promised, Jesse pries loose his braces with a fork, hurting himself in the process. Kate sums up the reason Jesse behaves badly: it is the only way he can get noticed. As Kate’s cancer worsens, Jesse’s outbursts become increasingly more violent and self-destructive. The burden weighs just as heavily on Anna. She has to give blood in three separate instances, and these trips sometimes mean she must give up things she wants or enjoys, such as going to a friend’s birthday party. Anna, however, evidently has no choice in the matter. Through these examples and those in earlier chapters, we see that the leukemia has deprived not just Kate, but also Jesse and Anna, of a normal childhood.