In the novel, My Sister’s Keeper, there are two main themes, right vs. wrong, and sisterhood.
The novel illustrates the fine line between what is right and what is wrong. Kate is dying from cancer but can be saved with her sister Anna’s kidney. There is no legal obligation for Anna to donate her organ. The surgery would be painful for Anna, and carries some severe health risks. She has already undergone several operations in order to prolong Kate’s prognosis. Her mother Sara believes she must do whatever it takes to save Kate, she cannot view life without her. However her father Brian struggles to find the right answer. He is guilty for putting Anna through so much for Kate, and is able to accept fatal state.
Anna struggles to find herself, and believes she only has one purpose in life, to save Kate’s. She is aware that her mother and father, with the help of a geneticist, chose her so she could help her sister. Kate’s brother Jesse was not a match. She describes how most kids are really just accidents, and comprehends her responsibility as Kate’s sister. She feels as though she should save Kate, but also wants to develop an individual identity. Throughout the novel, she describes how life would be easier without Kate and feels as though she could live without her. However, she does not want to upset her mother, and has a hard time telling her that she won’t save Kate.
In the courtroom, Judge DeSalvo also has difficulty determining what is acceptable and what is not. Campbell, representing Anna, tries to explain that she has no obligation to donate, and that she has already done so in the past. Sara, representing herself, and her husband Brian, expresses her concern for both her daughters. However, she insists Anna must donate to Kate because it is the right thing to do. Brian feels more guilty about what they have put Anna through while trying to save Kate but cannot decided what to do. In the end, Anna receives medical emancipation, and her lawyer receives her medical power of attorney.
Right vs. wrong quotes
“There are so many things that I have to work hard at now, that I used to be able to carry out instinctively-draw in oxygen, keep my silence, do the right thing.” - Anna
“There are some things we do because we convince ourselves it would be better for everyone involved. We tell ourselves that it’s the right thing to do…” - Campbell
“‘The answer is that there is no good answer. So as parents, as doctors, as judges, and as a society, we fumble through and make decisions that allow us to sleep at night—because morals are more important than ethics, and love is more important than law.’” - Judge DeSalvo
“See, unlike the rest of the free world, I didn’t get here by accident. And if your parents have you for a reason then that reason better exist. Because once it’s gone, so are you.” - Anna
“They don’t really pay attention to me, except when they need my blood or something. I wouldn't be alive, if it wasn’t for Kate being sick. - Anna”
“Although I am nine months pregnant, although I have had plenty of time to dream, I have not really considered the specifics of this child. I have thought of this daughter only in terms of what she will be able to do for the daughter I already have. I haven’t admitted this to Brian, who lies at night with his head on my considerable belly, waiting for the twitches that herald-he thinks-the first female placekicker for the Patriots. Then again, my dreams for her are no less exalted; I plan for her to save her sister’s life.” - Sara
“‘When we had Anna,’ I remind Brian, ‘We knew that she was going to be a donor for Kate.’” - Sara
“‘Once. And she doesn’t have any memory of us doing that to her.’” - Brian
“‘She is Sara. She will die, either tonight or tomorrow or maybe a year from now if we’re really lucky. You heard what Dr. Chance said. Arsenic’s not a cure. It just postpones what’s coming.’” - Brian
“‘ Certainly the Fitzgeralds have always believed that having Kate alive and part of the family was crucial-but at this point the sanctity of Kate’s existence has become completely intertwined with the quality of Anna’s life…” - Judge DeSalvo
The second theme that carries through My Sister’s Keeper is sisterhood. There are three sets of sisters in the novel, Sara and Zanne, Julia and Izzy, and of course Anna and Kate. Zanne helps out her sister when there is an issue with Kate. She comes over to her house to take care of the other kids. Sara is comforted by her sister and describes her as a ‘built-in best friend’. Julia lets her sister Izzy move in with her when her girlfriend dumps her. She takes care of her whenever there’s an issue.
The main sisters in the novel are Anna and Kate. They both love each other very much, and share a literal bond. Kate has Anna’s blood constantly flowing in her veins. Anna is Kate’s savior, the one that has made it possible for her to live. Several operations and procedures later though, Anna finds herself seeking medical emancipation to terminate her role as a hero. We learn that Kate was actually the one who wanted the lawsuit because she felt so bad for her sister. In the end, Anna is the one who passes away tragically. Her kidney goes to Kate, who lives out her dream to become a dance teacher. She has a hard time getting over losing her sister, and blames herself for Anna’s death. Time passes, and life grows easier for Kate. She knows that her and her sister will always share a special bond.
“Jesse is wrong-I didn’t come to see Kate because it would make me feel better. I came because without her, it’s hard for me to remember who I am.” - Anna
“If you have a sister and she dies, do you stop saying you have one? Or are you always a sister, even when the other half of the equation is gone?” - Anna
“Only one thing’s a constant. ‘Ten years from now,’ I say, ‘I’d like to be Kate’s sister.’” - Anna
“Once upon a time, I thought I was put on this earth to save my sister. In the end, I couldn't do it. I realize now, that wasn't the point. The point was, I had a sister. She was fantastic! One day I'm sure I'll see her again. But until then, my relationship continues..... ” - Anna
“Zanne strokes my hair and lets me cry. ‘It is so hard sometimes,’ I confess, words I have not said to anyone, not even Brian.” - Sara
“She is the person I ran to when I got my period; the one who helped me knit back together my first broken heart; the hand I would reach for in the middle of the night when I could no longer remember which side our father parted his hair on, or what it sounded like when our mother laughed. No matter what she is now, before all that, she was my built-in best friend. ‘Zanne?’ I say. ‘How are you.’” -Sara
“Isobel is three minutes older than me, but I’ve always been the one who takes care of her. I’m her nuclear bomb: when there’s something upsetting her, I go in and lay waste to it, whether that’s one of our six older brothers teasing her or the evil Janet, who decided she wasn’t gay after seven years into a committed relationship with Izzy.” -Julia
1.) Do you find that Anna’s choice to seek medical emancipation selfish? If so, why?
2.) Do you think Judge DeSalvo made the right choice in granting Anna medical emancipation? What would you have done if you were the judge?
3.)If you were Anna, do you think you would share her struggle to find individuality or take pride in saving your sister?
4.) Do you think it was right for Anna’s parents to put her through painful and sometimes risky operations in order to save Kate?
5.) Do you think Sara and Brian neglected Anna and Jesse? If so, why?
6.) If you were Kate, do you think you would share her struggle to deal with the guilt of putting your sister through so many operations, or would you simply find them necessary? Explain.
7.) Do you agree with Sara’s choice to see a geneticist in order to choose a baby that would be a perfect match for Kate? Explain.
8.) Has there ever been a situation where you had a hard time defining the line between right and wrong? Explain.
9.) All the sisters in the novel share a special bond with each other. Do you have a sibling that you are closely connected you? Explain.
10.) Which theme do you think was more important to the novel, right vs. wrong or sisterhood? Explain.