Handle with Care
Atria, Mar 3 2009, $27.95
In 2002 in New Hampshire, happily married Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe look forward to their second child who they pray will be as healthy as their daughter Amelia. At the hospital during a nasty Nor’easter, Charlotte gives birth, but knows something is wrong when she hears a pop and the stunned nurse asks if she did that. As Sean says she is perfect, Dr. Gianna Del Sol and the OR nurse tell Charlotte not to lift the newborn’s arm. Willow is born with Type III Osteogenesis imperfecta; brittle bone disease that will mean hundreds of broken bones over the years from sneezes, falls and sudden movement.
Over the next few years, Charlotte, having given up her vocation as a chef, becomes Willow’s caretaker. The costs of raising her are exorbitant and the impact emotionally on each family member is straining relationships; especially feeling lost is adolescent Amelia who has never been on a vacation and the only trip outside the state was to a special hospital in Nebraska for her younger half-sister’s care. Worried about Willow after she is gone, Charlotte sues her best friend Piper who was her initial obstetrician and never said anything about an unhealthy fetus. Charlotte’s actions divide the O’Keefe family further as questions of abortion are raised at court.
The key to this insightful family drama is each of the prime O’Keefe players have differing personalities and react to situations in varying manners. The story line is obviously driven by the cast especially by Willow who knows she is loved by the sacrifices made for her. Fans will see the impact on her parents and her sister as all focus is on her. As always Jodi Picoult provides a poignant tale that discerningly raises awareness of the impact an ailing dependent has on others in her circle.