This is sort of a no brainer for me, because how often do you read a book that’s exactly your experience? Or almost exactly? I don’t have leukemia, like Kate in the novel, and my sister wasn’t genetically engineered to help me out (Mel came about the normal way), but a family living with illness that never goes away? That’s us.
Like Kate, I’ve had to shop for clothes that will cover, or at least downplay, a port-a-cath. I’ve gone to work with it accessed and given myself drugs in the bathroom. I, like Sara, have read the “Dear Abby” column and thought, “this is this person’s biggest problem? Really? What sort of life do they live?!” I’ve worried that no one will love me for who I am, like Kate does.
This family knows what my family knows; how to ask the nurses for the meds you need; how to hold back hair when your kid is vomiting in the emesis basin; what the inside of an infusion clinic looks like; how things can change at the drop of a hat, at the twist of a cell. Emergency ER runs. Waiting for a transplant that may or may not come. Like Kate, I had stopped crying at blood draws by the time I was five or six.
I saw the movie version of the book with my best friend, and she bawled her eyes out. I didn’t, because, well, one, I don’t cry in movies. And two, it was my life. I’d lived this. I didn’t cry, I gave little nods of knowing and twisted smiles. This family, and my family, were doing the same things, worrying about the same things, hoping for the same things.
Reading this book, for me, is a validation that other people do go through the same things, that “normal” for me is normal for a lot of other people; maybe not the people I know, but some people. Fortunately, I didn’t get my transplant through such complex means, as Kate does in the book. (And as a bonus, I also had epilepsy as a kid, like one of the other characters.) But Picoult wrote about the Fitzgeralds so well that I thought she could’ve been eavesdropping on us. So, it’s no wonder this book makes my list.