Willow O’Keefe is born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta. It’s also known as brittle bone disease. In other words, she can break a number of bones through her lifetime. It’s a disability in that she is short statured, has to use a wheelchair and suffers innumerable breaks. It’s like taking two steps forwards and one step back. On the other hand, she is extremely smart for a 6 year old. She has the vocabulary of an adult and absorbs information like a sponge. She is funny and witty. She is loveable.
Her mother however, decides one day to lodge a wrongful birth suit. There are a couple of problems with this:
1) she has to say that she would have aborted Willow had she known about the disability in advance
2) the doctor she is suing is her best friend.
Throughout this turmoil, relationships are affected. Willow’s parents are divided over the suit and their relationship is in turmoil. Willow’s older sister, Amelia, aged 13, is neglected. And she takes to extreme measures to make herself feel better.
And what about Willow? How does she take the fact that her mother would have gotten rid of her had she known she would break?
The book is presented to us through the voices of some characters, each of them talking to Willow. They include Charlotte (mother), Sean (father), Amelia, Piper (the doctor) and Marin (Charlotte’s attorney). We don’t hear Willow’s voice in first person unlike everyone else.
This has a shade of ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ and the ending is just as emotional (although I didn’t sob…only cried).
There is no winner in this legal case because either way, something or the other is lost.
Something that cannot be repaired.
It also questions a lot of issues:
Abortion of an ‘imperfect’ foetus
Disabilities — how many parents will decide what is ‘too disabled’ and therefore abort a child? Will there be a time when someone may choose to abort if they know their child is not going to be a supermodel or a genius?
Ethical issues in medicine
How do siblings of disabled individuals cope when everything revolves around the other child? What about support systems for them?
It asks all these questions and a whole lot more.
This book, in my opinion, is a must-read.
It’s Jodi Picoult at her best. Once again.
Until next time,