Monday, November 30, 2009

Finished Handle With Care

So I finally finished the insanely long book Handle With Care. It was poignant and left me thinking long after I set the book down. My heart ached for the O'Keefe family as they went through heartbreak after heartbreak, from Mr. and Mrs. O'Keefe's almost divorce to Amelia's eating disorder and self abuse. At the end of the book when the O'Keefes received the money from the settlement I was hoping that everything would turn out okay for this close knit family. But, alas, the ending was not a happy one. The book ends with Willow taking a deathly swim into the pond by their house and never resurfacing. This ending makes me mad just thinking about it. Everything the O'Keefes fought for was for Willow and here she goes getting herself accidentally killed. Everything that her mother and father and sister dreamed of Willow achieving with the settlement money goes down the drain. Here is an excerpt from her death:
There was glass above me, and the runny eye of the sun in the sky, and I beat my fists against it. It was like the ice had sealed itself on top of me again, and I couldn't push through. I was so numb. I had stopped shivering.
As the water filled my nose and mouth, as the sun got tinier and tinier, I closed my eyes and curled my fists around the things I knew for sure:
That a scallop has thirty-five eyes, all blue.
That a tuna will suffocate if it ever stops swimming.
That I was loved.
That this time, it was not me who broke. pg. 473
This is a calming death for Willow because she finally achieves her dream of walking out on to the ice. Also the fact that the ice broke and not Willow is a powerful symbol. It shows her resilience through this entire book and how she stuck through thick and thin. Willow didn't die from her illness, and I believe that this makes her a hero. I love that the last chapter is from the perspective of Willow. All of the book is from the perspective of her different family members so I think this change in view is a good way to finalize the book. This was a beautiful book and even though I detest the ending because of Willow's unnecessary demise I would definitely read this book again.

Monday, October 26, 2009

So I'm always halfway done with the book Handle With Care and the plot is just starting to get interesting. The O'Keefes have just filed their lawsuit and tensions are high. Here is a passage describing Sean's reaction when he found out about Willow's disease and how such a small moment can have such a huge impact on the lives of others.
It never failed to amaze me how the most ordinary day could be catapulted into the extraordinary in the blink of an eye. Take the mother who was handing a toy to her toddler in the backseat one moment, and in a massive motor vehicle accident the next. Or the frat boy who was chugging a beer on his porch as we drove up to arrest him for sexually assaulting another student. The wife who opened the door to fine a police officer bearing the news of her husband's death. In my job, I've often been present at the transition when the would as you new it became the disaster you never expected-but I had not been on the receiving end before. -pg. 144

As a police officer, Sean is expected to encounter hardship and turmoil in the lives of others every day. Even with his tough skin, it's hard to imagine how he was feeling when he found out that Willow was carrying a life threatening disease. This passage is poignant because it walks the reader through the lives of others as their worlds turn upside down. In her books, Jodi Picoult does an excellent job of making the reader feel as if what happens in the book is happening to them. The personal connections that Sean talks about help make the book realistic. While reading this, I'm constantly wondering why such bad things happen to good people like the O'Keefes. They were living a normal life when the discovery of Willow's disease happened. The only thing that people can do is try to discover a cure for osteogenesis imperfecta and help support those who have it. Here's a link if you want to learn more.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I am continuing to read the book Handle With Care by Jody Picoult and I am starting to uncover poignant moments in each of the characters' lives. In this passage, Charlotte, Willow's mother, found out that she may be able to sue her OBGYN on account of wrongful birth. A wrongful birth lawsuit states that if a mother had known that their child was going to be significantly impaired, they would have chosen to abort the fetus. Charlotte is getting in touch with her darkest fears in this passage and questions of morality come up as well.
What if it was someone's fault?
The idea was just the germ of a seed, carried in the hollow beneath my breastbone when we left the law offices. Even when i was lying awake next to Sean, I heard it as a drumbeat in my blood: what if, what if, what if. For five years now I had loved you, hovered over you, held you when you had a break. I had gotten exactly what I so desperately wished for: a beautiful baby. So how could I admit to anyone-much less myself- that you were not only the most wonderful thing in the world that had happened to me... but also the most exhausting, the most overwhelming? pg. 60

Like any loving parent, Charlotte loves Willow, even with her flaws. Charlotte is having trouble accepting the fact that Willow's condition may have actually been someones fault. I love the imagery when Charlotte describes her doubt as a germ of a seed. It makes it seem like her doubt is gradually growing to a point where she will no longer be able to suppress it. Blaming someone specifically for the condition that Willow has to live with. Charlotte must also be feeling guilty for being the one who gave birth to Willow and giving her the disease, even if it wasn't intentional. Charlotte's mixed and confused feelings help add an interesting layer of texture to the unfolding plot.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


So right now I have just started the book by Jodi Picoult titled Handle with Care. This book explores the different roles each of the O'Keefe family members must take on when Willow is born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that makes her bones extremely brittle and breakable. When the family takes a vacation to Disney World, Willow trips on a napkin and is seriously injured. When the O'Keefes arrive at the hospital, they discover that Amelia, Willow's sister, forgot to bring the doctors note stating that Willow is diagnosed with OI. Because of this, Sean O'Keefe, the father of Willow and Amelia, is accused of child abuse and Amelia is taken to a temporary foster home. Here is a passage when Amelia feels like she has no control over her life.
"I could not tell you what made me go into the bathroom that was attached to my room-wallpaper spotted with pink roses, shaped soaps curled in dishes next to the sink-and stick my finger down my throat. Maybe it was because I could feel the toxic stuff seeping into my bloodstream, and I wanted it out. Maybe it was punishment. Maybe it was because I wanted to control one part of me that had been uncontrollable, so the rest of me would fall into line. Rats can't throw up, you'd told me once; it popped into my head now. With one hand holding up my hair, I vomited into the toilet until I was flushed and sweating and empty and relieved to learn that, yes, I could do this one thing right, even if it made me feel worse than I had before. With my stomach cinching and bile bitter on the back of my tongue, I felt horrible-but this time there was a physical reason i could point to." pg.27
Amelia is feeling some complicated emotions right now. She feels mainly guilt for forgetting Willow's hospital papers. She also feels trapped and confused because sometimes she wonders what life would be like if she was born into a more normal family. She's in an unfamiliar place and probably doesn't fully understand why her parents were taken away from her. She is also feeling mixed feelings about her body image and the way others perceive her. Amelia vomits into the toilet because she wants control of her life instead living life with no security in the future. I feel sorry for Amelia because he life has been shaped around Willow's disease. While people feel sympathy for Willow as they see her in her various casts and braces, people never stop to think about the other sister. All of these mixed up emotions cause Amelia to want to take control of her life but the only way she knows how is to force herself to throw up. I'm excited to see how Amelia's character progresses throughout the book and how the rest of her family will deal with her budding psychological issues.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Today i just finished the book Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer and I found it to be a strangely confusing and dazzling book. The chapter that impacted me on a profound level was the chapter in which Grandfather was explaining how he gave up his friend Hershel to the Jews in order to save him and his family.
...Who is a Jew the General asked me again and i felt on my other hand the hand of grandmother and i knew that she was holding your father and that he was holding you and that you were holding your children I am so afraid of dying I am soafraidofdying Iamsoafraidofdying Iamsoafraidofdying and I said he is a Jew who is a Jew the General asked and Hershel embraced my hand with much strength and he was my friend he was my best friend I would have let him kiss Anna and even make love to her but I am I and my wife is my wife and my baby is my baby do you understand what I am telling you I pointed at Hershel and said he is a Jew this man is a Jew please Hershel said to me and he was crying tell them it is nottrue please Eli please two guards seized him and he did not resist... pgs. 250-251
The Holocaust made people do unspeakable things towards family and friends. This book does a good job of highlighting the sorrow and the anguish that survivors still experience to this day. I hate that Eli is forced to choose between his family and his best friend in this passage. Either way he would loose people he loved and would have to live with it for the rest of his life. I can't even imagine being in Eli's situation. You can tell that Eli and Hershel were best friends because it says that Eli would even let Hershel have sex with his wife. The closeness of Hershel and Eli makes Eli's decision even more gut-wrenching. Eli's experience should teach future generations that we must learn from the mistakes of the Holocaust in order to enforce the future.
This excerpt stood out to me because of the unique wording and because of the guilt and anguish that Eli is conveying to the reader. This excerpt that I chose is only a small part of a long run on sentence that spans two to three pages and talks about Eli's experience in the Holocaust. I like this style of writing because you can tell that Eli is anxious and panicked as he relates his story. The words that run together such as, "Imsoafraidofdying," emphasize the scared, rushed tone. This Holocaust story has remained in my mind long after I put the book down.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I am currently reading the book Everything is Illuminated by Johnathan Safran Foer. Ideas of love keep on coming up throughout different and unexpected parts of this book. This passage stuck in my brain even after I had put the down.

"His condition worsened. In time, Brod could expect a sound beating every
morning before the Kolker went to work- where he was able, to the bafflement of
all doctors, to refrain entirely from outbursts- and every late afternoon before
dinner. He beat her in the kitchen in front of the pots and pans, in the living
room in front of their two children, and in the pantry in front of the mirror in
which they both watched. She never ran from his fists, but took them, went to
them, certain that her bruises were not marks of violence, but violent love. The
Kolker was trapped in his body- like a love note in an unbreakable bottle, whose
script never fades or smudges, and is never read by the eyes of the intended
lover- forced to hurt the one with whom he wanted most to be gentle." pg. 130

The Kolker's medical condition causes him to randomly have violent outbursts towards Brod on a regular basis. The fact that the Kolker doesn't experience his outbursts at work show that his frustration builds up until he gets home and he hits Brod even when he's trying to be gentle. Because Brod welcomes the Kolker's blows, this illuminates her complete dependence on him for happiness. She admits that she never truely loved him, but she still needs him in order to survive. I feel bad for the Kolker because his punches and harsh words have become the only way for him to love Brod.

I especially like the image of the unbroken bottle with a love letter inside. It stresses the pain, love lost, and sacrifice that both Brod and the Kolker are going through. The Kolker simply wants to give Brod the love and affection she deserves and Brod wants the Kolker to be happy even with his disease. The odd ailment that the Kolker possesses leads to a barrier between himself and Brod. They can no longer love or care for each other in a proper way. The passage about the love note made me unbearably sad and stressed the love lost between the once happy Brod and the Kolker.