Jodi Picoult is a favorite author, but the last few novels read have left me disappointed. Found Handle with Care at a Volunteers of America thrift store for .25 and after sitting on my bookshelf for several months I decided to see if (one of) my favorite authors could redeem herself.
The novel centers around the O’Keefe family & their life living with a child that has Osteogenesis Imperfecta; a severe disability where you have “brittle bones”.
I had never heard of OI before & I thought the author did an amazing job of explaining the disability. The information describing the disease & characteristics attributed with it was very thought out & organized. I can’t imagine being a person living with OI or being the parent of one; having to worry about a bone breaking because you sneezed or a pinky-toe break turning into a life threatening situation. Not to exclude the financial & emotional stress that occurs with the constant worry & anxiety.
The novel is reminiscent of another Picoult novel,My Sister’s Keeper, where the reader is forced to ask them self,”What would I do?” when faced with a morality issue. In this case the moral issue is a Wrongful Birth case filed. Wrongful Birth, at least the definition I drew from the novel, means had you been given information about a disability your unborn child had, you would’ve terminated the pregnancy. In the case of Handle with Care the doctor getting sued also happens to be the main character & mother’s best friend.
The novel’s chapters are each narrated by a different main character & told from their individual viewpoint:
▪️Charlotte: mother. She’s the one that handles the day-to-day pressure & struggle of raising a child with OI. When presented the option of filing a Wrongful Birth suit she decides to follow through. Her reason for it is that by telling a lie, admitting she would have terminated the pregnancy, will ensure that her now 5 year old daughter will financially be comfortable for the rest of her life.
▪️Sean: father/Charlotte’s husband. Only working parent & struggles with barely making financial ends meet on his law enforcement wage. Highly against filing the lawsuit & eventually becomes a witness for the defense.
▪️Amelia: Charlotte’s teenage daughter from first marriage. Feels like an outcast, despite having a great relationship with her step-father Sean. Estranged towards her mother & is very resentful towards her and the attention she bestows on younger sister. Develops bulemia as stresses at home increase and eventually starts cutting herself.
▪️Piper: Obstetrician & Charlotte’s best friend. She gets sued by Charlotte in a Wrongful Birth case.
▪️Marin: Charlotte’s lawyer. Takes on the case even though she struggles with the morality of the situation. During the course of the lawsuit she’s in the midst of her own search for her birth mother. Oftentimes, the two get intertwined.
▪️Willow: 5year old that has OI. Even though the whole novel is about her, she only narrated the last closing chapter.
My favorite characters in the novel were Amelia & Piper. Amelia my heart just broke for, she was screaming for attention & nobody seemed to notice. Piper just got the raw end of the deal. Such a good foundational character & I felt the author kept her integrity intact throughout the whole novel. My least favorite character was Charlotte; which I think is the author’s point, you develop a love/hate relationship with her because she tugs at your morality. You can see where her dilemma lies; her lying, selfishness & stubbornness but in the end it really is to benefit the life of her disabled child. When I first started reading the novel I thought,”there’s no way I could file a lawsuit like that” but as the novel progressed & the trial got deeper I found myself seeing her point. She lost a lot during the course of the novel & you can’t help but admire her mama-bear mentality. I also really liked that the author had her ganged up on in particular situations; the media protests, the parents of other OI children who called her out on her lying. They said the things that I, the reader, was thinking.
I HATED the ending! For me it almost ruined the whole novel. And from other reviews I’ve read on Goodreads, (https://www.goodreads.com)
that thought seems pretty universal. It all seemed so…pointless. Usually I can see/understand why an author ended a novel the way they did, but in this case I couldn’t. So much loss, devastation & ruined relationships for nothing! Would’ve been a better ending if the author created something positive out of the trial instead of more loss.
All in all, I would recommend reading Handle with Care. In fact, I’m currently finishing up this review so I can pass on my copy of the novel to my aunt for reading. Not my favorite Picoult novel (may have been if not for the ending) but it has redeemed her novels for me & showed me why I like reading her books in the first place.
*Handle with Care book trailer*