Thursday, 1 August 2013

Rory Gilmore Book Club Meeting #1: My Sister's Keeper

Welcome to the first official meeting of the Rory Gilmore Book Club!

To join and receive a copy of the questions in advance, shoot me an email here! Feel free to link up down below, even if you haven't joined!

(All questions are from the publisher, the answers are all my own opinion)

1) What do you think of this story's representation of the justice system? What was your opinion of the final outcome of the trial?

I believe that the justice system is in a black and white world, where in reality there are many shades of grey (not just 50... dirty). Granting Anna medical emancipation portrays the justice system as caring and flexible as opposed to rigid and cold as we have come to think of it. I'm unsure how a court would rule in a real world situation, but I agree with the decision that was made. However, although the results of the trial may have been in the best interest of Anna and potentially Kate, it took away a mother's power to control the care for her child. 

2) At one point, Campbell thinks to himself: "There are two reasons not to tell the truth -- because lying will get you what you want, and because lying will keep someone from getting hurt." With this kind of thinking, Campbell gives himself an amazingly wide berth; he effectively frees himself from speaking any semblance of the truth as long as the lie will somehow benefit himself or anyone else. Did it concern you that a lawyer would express an opinion like this? Do you think, by the end of the story, that Campbell still thinks this moral flexibility is okay? In what ways might this kind of thinking actually wind up hurting Campbell?

It did not concern or surprise me that a lawyer would express a strong opinion like that one on the subject of lying. Moral flexibility is what lawyers are trained and groomed to make money off of. Lawyers don't always fight for the innocent party, but their job is to employ techniques to prove their client is innocent, while tiptoeing around the truth. I think that by the end of the story Campbell had learned that what happens in his private life is much different than his work life. He could potentially talk his way out of his relationship with Julia, because in a relationship there should be no lies, even within those perimeters. 

3) On page 149, Brian is talking to Julia about astronomy and says, "Dark matter has a gravitational effect on other objects. You can't see it, you can't feel it, but you can watch something being pulled in its direction." How is this symbolic of Kate's illness? What might be a possible reason for Brian's fascination with astronomy?

Dark matter and Kate's illness are similar in that they both have a strong pull around them. Dark matter literally pulls objects towards it, where Kate's illness is more of a mental pull. It is always in the forefront of the minds of her family, if she's okay, if she's in trouble. Brian may be fascinated with astronomy because of it's power. It's a large being, something he can not control. He controls fire, controls disaster, tries to control Kate and her illness and his family, but something that is a constant is the night sky. The big dipper is always in the sky and the stars are always something he cannot control. 

4) Near the end of the novel, Anna describes "Ifspeak" — the language that all children know, but abandon as they grow older — remarking that "Kids think with their brains cracked wide open; becoming an adult, I've decided, is only a slow sewing shut." Do you believe this to be true? What might children teach the adults in this novel? Which adults need lessons most?

While growing up, "ifspeak" is a constant. Children are always wondering, always asking why, always trying to figure things out. What if's and why's are questions we ask our parents, our teachers, and our friends. Eventually they become annoying. They become questions to keep to ourselves. They become weird or obscure and people stop dreaming, developing, growing and learning. Children might teach the adults to keep questioning and learning and talking out loud, and to explore their own curiosities. I believe Campbell needed to learn this lesson the most, as he shut himself off from other people and became set in his ways, never learning or questioning, only doing what he was "supposed" to do. 

5) Discuss the symbolic role that Jesse's pyromania plays in this novel, keeping in mind the following quote from Brian: "How does someone go from thinking that if he cannot rescue, he must destroy?" Why is it significant that Jesse has, in many respects, become the polar opposite of his father? But despite this, why is Jesse often finding himself in the reluctant hero position (saving Rat, delivering the baby at boot camp)? Brian himself comes to realize, in the scene where he confronts Jesse, that he and his son aren't so different. Talk about the traits that they share and the new understanding that they gain for each other by the end of the story.

Jesse's pyromania plays a big part in the story, although it is still overshadowed by the more urgent story line of Anna and Kate. Jesse has become a fire starter as a way to get his father's attention. His father's escape from Kate's illness is work, as a firefighter, so Jesse seeks him out on a level playing field. His whole life he was not only overshadowed by Kate and Anna, he was unable to help his sister. He feels lost and useless within his family, much like his father. Brian also feels useless in his family, as Sara usually has all the power with the medical and emotional decisions that are made. Jesse wants to be a hero, much like his father, and is really a good person who has been emotionally crippled in the environment he was raised in. They find a new understanding and respect for eachother when they realize they both just want to help, yet feel helpless in their family.

6) My Sister's Keeper explores the moral, practical and emotional complications of putting one human being in pain or in danger for the well being of another. Discuss the different kinds of ethical problems that Anna, as the "designer baby," presents in this story? Did your view change as the story progressed? Why or why not? Has this novel changed any of your opinions about other conflicts in bioethics like stem cell research or genetically manipulated offspring?

I struggled to answer this question, because I have such a conflicted view. Kate was able to live a longer and happier life thanks to her sister. Anna never refused treatment, even when it came to the donation of her kidney, because of her love for Kate. They treated eachother like sisters, just under different circumstances. Bringing Anna into the world with the sole purpose of helping Kate seems selfish. Stem cell research and genetically manipulated offspring are never something I have personally had to deal with, and I'm not sure what I would have done placed in the same situation as Sara. Either way you think about it, you're potentially sacrificing the life of someone you love. It's a tough situation, and I don't think that in the end there is any right answer. 

Thanks for attending the first official meeting of the Rory Gilmore Book Club! Feel free to link up here:

Next month we'll be reading... Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own! I will send out the questions on the 15th of the month, and then posting my responses on the 25th. Send me an email or post a comment below if you're interested!

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