Cover of

Cover of Handle with Care: A Novel

The critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling author, (and also my favorite author) Jodi Picolut, the mastermind behind books including “My Sister’s Keeper,” returns onto the literary scene with the captivating and incredibly touching “Handle With Care.”

The book tells the tale of Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe, who are blessed with two daughters the pre-adolescent Amelia, and five-year old Willow.  Now, while this may depict a typical family, the O’ Keefes are far from normalcy, as Willow suffers from a rare bone diseases known as Osteogensis Imperfecta (OI). This means that because Willow’s bones are so susceptible, a simple move can lead to a painful and, sometimes, nearly impossible fracture all over her body. It is because of Willow’s condition that the O’Keefes find themselves facing financial problems and the fake-sympathy of people, all while trying to provide their daughter with the best life possible given her special needs.

A trip to Disneyland and the subsequent events, however, are what set the story into action. After Willow sustains a break at the amusement park, her parents are accused of child abuse-as OI is a very rare and unknown condition-and are taken down to the precinct to undergo investigation, Sean, a cop himself, finds this incident humiliating and decides to sue Disneyland once he returns home to New Hampshire.

Though the lawsuit never materializes, Sean, his family, and the lawyers stumble upon “wrongful birth,” a legal term that could change their lives forever. To make a long story short, a wrongful birth is when a pregnant woman has been misinformed of the true condition of her fetus, thus not allowed to explore her choices of whether to keep the child or seek an abortion. It also means that Charlotte and Sean can sue their gynecologist for malpractice, though upon being informed of that, the couple is filled with hesitation. This new lawsuit could provide all of Willow’s needs, without the need to be buried under a mountain of debt, but at the same time, the O’Keefes’ gynecologist happens to be Charlotte’s best friend of eight years, Piper Reece.

It is from that point onwards that the book becomes not only a mere recounting of events but an open forum on sensitive topics such as the right to life, abortion, adoption, children with special needs, familial problems, adolescence, and even Bulimia Nervosa.

Picoult, in her charming style, perfectly balances the social problems aspect without making the plot seem dull or repetitive. With every page, the reader grows more anxious to know what fate will fall upon the family, while still gaining knowledge about a disease that is practically unheard of outside the medical circles. Even when she has to include medical tidbits, it is presented in a way that everyone can understand, and not in the textbook sort of style.

Another distinct mark of the book is the division of the chapters. Instead of the typical 3rd person narrative chapter-like style, the book is divided into several sections with Charlotte, Sean, Amelia, Piper, and Marin the lawyer, telling their stories to the reader, who fills in for Willow. It provides insight into the actions of these characters and in some cases, allows sympathy to be the predominant feeling.

It is no wonder then that the book has received critical acclaim from literary journals and famous authors. “Handle with Care” is a captivating read that does not spark any feelings of boredom or repetition, unlike many of the recently published books. The ending, in true Picolut style, will take some time to sink in, especially after having read for some 600 pages, yet somehow it is all worth the time and effort of going through the book.

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