Discussion #1: Handle with Care

Let’s get started on our first discussion of book #33, Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult. Have you finished reading Part II? If not, read no further lest you run into spoilers! Otherwise, hit us with your best shot at these discussion questions:

  • Charlotte and Sean are faced with a very difficult decision when presented with the option of suing for “wrongful birth.” How did you feel about the lawsuit? The matter is complicated in many aspects, but especially because of Charlotte’s close friendship with Piper, her ob-gyn. How might the O’Keefes have considered and entered into the lawsuit if they had not had a personal relationship with Piper? Would your own reaction to it have changed?
  • (p. 38) Charlotte says “I would never have wished for an able-bodied child, because that child would have been someone that wasn’t you.” Do you agree? Discuss.
  • (p. 46) Sean is angry and wants to get payback for the way he and his family were treated by the authorities in Florida. What is your initial reaction: to do so or forget it? (p. 98) Charlotte asks Sean the perfect question, “How come you were perfectly willing to sue Disney World and half of the public service system in Florida for cash? What’s the difference?” Is there a difference? Discuss the irony of Sean’s feelings initially and then how he changes with the wrongful birth lawsuit. Being played the fool was worth it but getting help for forever wasn’t?
  • How does Amelia deal with her position in the family…being a preteen, having low self-esteem, being, and the healthy sibling of a very ill child?
  • Charlotte is confident that the potential end of her lawsuit will justify the means, but Sean can’t handle the idea that the “means” may leave Willow thinking she is unloved or unwanted. Clearly they both love their daughter, but express it in drastically different ways. What do each of their approaches say about love? Do Charlotte’s actions speak louder than Sean’s words?
  • Now for our usual new-bookclub-author question, how do you feel about Jodi Picoult’s writing style? Have you read any other Picoult novels? Will you read more by this author?

Thoughts?

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10 Responses to Discussion #1: Handle with Care

  1. maksbestfriend says:

    * Charlotte and Sean are faced with a very difficult decision when presented with the option of suing for “wrongful birth.” How did you feel about the lawsuit? The matter is complicated in many aspects, but especially because of Charlotte’s close friendship with Piper, her ob-gyn. How might the O’Keefes have considered and entered into the lawsuit if they had not had a personal relationship with Piper? Would your own reaction to it have changed?

    Being the parent of a disabled child, and as it happens, a child who was born in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, I would not have filed that lawsuit. There is something so incredibly creepy about doing something like that. No matter what, if anything Piper might have gleaned from that ultrasound being really clear is unknown. I don’t think that Piper should have been her OB/GYN. Being friends, and best friends at that crossed boundary lines when it came time to be the doctor, too. Piper should have kept to her ethical standards and declined to treat her. I would never file a wrongful birth lawsuit. I understand how the money might look like it would be worth it to take care of Willow, but did she think about all the other ramifications and fall out or did she just see the financial benefit and ignoring everything and everyone else. If Piper hadn’t been her best friend, I don’t know if she would have done this, or knowing that she had malpractice insurance, which was one of her rationalizations going in. I am just stunned that she would even consider doing that to her friend. I still would not have done it. No doctor is God.

    * (p. 38) Charlotte says “I would never have wished for an able-bodied child, because that child would have been someone that wasn’t you.” Do you agree? Discuss.

    I think that every parent wishes for a happy, healthy child. Isn’t that we all want in life. But sadly, not every child is born healthy and whole, and we all learn to cope with love the child that we are given. I think that she is saying what she says to Willow, partly to make Willow feel loved and to appease her own sense of growing guilt for what she is going to put her and her family through.

    * (p. 46) Sean is angry and wants to get payback for the way he and his family were treated by the authorities in Florida. What is your initial reaction: to do so or forget it? (p. 98) Charlotte asks Sean the perfect question, “How come you were perfectly willing to sue Disney World and half of the public service system in Florida for cash? What’s the difference?” Is there a difference? Discuss the irony of Sean’s feelings initially and then how he changes with the wrongful birth lawsuit. Being played the fool was worth it but getting help for forever wasn’t?

    I think that what happened in Florida was a case of wrongful arrest and detainment and even though he was really angry, the lawyer was right. He didn’t have a case, because he didn’t have the letter from the doctor to prove what he and his wife were claiming about Willow. Now if he had that letter in his possession at the time of detention and this happened, I think that he would have had a case. But once Sean realized the magnitude of ramifications, and the fact that he would be forced to lie and say that if he had known that Willow would have been born this way, that he would have not chosen it to happen, cut across the grain of who he is. I think that he is not a person who is willing to lie for financial gain.

    * How does Amelia deal with her position in the family…being a preteen, having low self-esteem, being, and the healthy sibling of a very ill child?

    She starts turning inward and becoming angry and rebellious. The age difference gives her a different perspective on what is happening. She resents her mother for filing the lawsuit and causing her to lose her friendship with Emma and becoming the pariah in her own school and very small community. She is cutting and no one is seeing…yet. She is dying her hair, becoming bulemic, and no one is noticing. I worry about her. She loves her sister on many levels, but on some levels as seen in the book, she resents her, because she often gets left to fend for herself or can’t do this or that, because Willow can’t. I wonder if all that she is doing is an attempt to get attention from her parents.

    * Charlotte is confident that the potential end of her lawsuit will justify the means, but Sean can’t handle the idea that the “means” may leave Willow thinking she is unloved or unwanted. Clearly they both love their daughter, but express it in drastically different ways. What do each of their approaches say about love? Do Charlotte’s actions speak louder than Sean’s words?

    I think that both parents show love in the ways that they know how to do. I think that Charlotte’s actions right now are she is willing to do anything, step over anyone, and she has said that she didn’t care what anyone thinks about her to make sure that Willow is taken care of. Actions. Willow knows. I am sure that children talk. I think that Sean is showing her that he loves her in the fact that he is standing his moral ground by not throwing anyone under the bus to take money, that they may, or may not be rightfully entitled to. He sees the potential long term ramifications. He loves his family enough not to want to see it destroyed by this. Sure the money would be nice. But knowing at the end of the day you have a family intact and the children who know that they are loved by at least one parent for the right reasons is very important. I guess what I am saying is that I think that Sean is the one that is speaking louder.

    * Now for our usual new-bookclub-author question, how do you feel about Jodi Picoult’s writing style? Have you read any other Picoult novels? Will you read more by this author?

    I have read lots of Jodi’s books. I love her writing style. I find once I start reading, it is hard to put the book down. I have at least 6 of her books on my bookshelf in my office now! Absolutely will read more by her!

  2. @maksbestfriend – *not peeking at your answers* I’ll be back later to post mine… must get to the gym first before I lose the nerve. Thanks for posting!

  3. Charlotte and Sean are faced with a very difficult decision when presented with the option of suing for “wrongful birth.” How did you feel about the lawsuit? The matter is complicated in many aspects, but especially because of Charlotte’s close friendship with Piper, her ob-gyn. How might the O’Keefes have considered and entered into the lawsuit if they had not had a personal relationship with Piper? Would your own reaction to it have changed?
    Personally, I feel the basis of the “wrongful birth” lawsuit is representative of frivolous litigation clogging up the legal system. It’s like a slap in God’s face, saying “That miracle of life you created shouldn’t exist.” As a Pro-Life advocate and member of the Catholic Church, whether or not I had a personal relationship with the ob-gyn would NOT have changed my decision to have the child and not pursue the lawsuit after the birth.

    (p. 38) Charlotte says “I would never have wished for an able-bodied child, because that child would have been someone that wasn’t you.” Do you agree? Discuss.
    Yes, I agree. The illness has become a part of who she is and has shaped how she reacts to her world. Charlotte has taken on the role of full-time caregiver as a result of the illness, which created the strong nurturing bond that she has for Willow. This question is difficult to answer without actually being in the same situation. But I have heard children with disabilities are much more loving than those without.

    * (p. 46) Sean is angry and wants to get payback for the way he and his family were treated by the authorities in Florida. What is your initial reaction: to do so or forget it? (p. 98) Charlotte asks Sean the perfect question, “How come you were perfectly willing to sue Disney World and half of the public service system in Florida for cash? What’s the difference?” Is there a difference? Discuss the irony of Sean’s feelings initially and then how he changes with the wrongful birth lawsuit. Being played the fool was worth it but getting help for forever wasn’t?
    My first reaction was to forget it, as the authorities were only following standard protocol. The difference between suing Disney World is that he felt humiliated, and he wanted to punish them for disgracing his honor. Whereas, the “wrongful death” lawsuit goes completely against his love for Willow, the child he always wanted. Going along with Charlotte’s decision to pursue the lawsuit seems to go against his beliefs as a father, and I don’t believe he ever would’ve agreed to it if he hadn’t wanted to satisfy his wife.

    * How does Amelia deal with her position in the family…being a preteen, having low self-esteem, being, and the healthy sibling of a very ill child?
    I think Amelia is reacting as a typical preteen, yet her “acting out” behavior is intensified due to her parents’ lack of attention to her wellbeing.

    * Charlotte is confident that the potential end of her lawsuit will justify the means, but Sean can’t handle the idea that the “means” may leave Willow thinking she is unloved or unwanted. Clearly they both love their daughter, but express it in drastically different ways. What do each of their approaches say about love? Do Charlotte’s actions speak louder than Sean’s words?
    Yes & no. The fact that Charlotte is willing to set herself up for public ridicule and destroy personal relationships to achieve the so-called “ends” speaks volumes of her love for their daughter, but it’s dishonest. On the other hand, Sean’s words are honest and come from the heart without strings attached. Both have good intentions for the daughter they truly love.

    * Now for our usual new-bookclub-author question, how do you feel about Jodi Picoult’s writing style? Have you read any other Picoult novels? Will you read more by this author?
    While reading each character’s “voice” as Picoult weaves them into the story, I’m amazed at how skillfully she relays their personalities. The depth of feeling is moving. While I tend to stay away from serious books dealing with sensitive issues such as this novel, I’m really getting into this author’s writing style. I haven’t read any other books by Picoult and would consider reading another – she’s earned that “Bestselling Author” title for a reason.

  4. maksbestfriend says:

    I like your answers. Very thoughtful, as usual!

  5. Thanks @maksbestfriend! I wanted to give my answers serious thought before posting, which is why it took me a little longer. BTW, having your perspective as we read this book is an added bonus – very much appreciated. 🙂

  6. maksbestfriend says:

    This is a hard read for me for the obvious reasons, but I am making my way through it. I have put it down a time or two just to take the breather. I am up to page 370. Don’t hate me. 🙂

  7. @maksbestfriend – I’m at p. 242 after reading during CG’s cello lesson. Unfortunately, the eyelids were heavy… but it’s still good & kept me awake!

  8. Finally made it to p. 312… did you catch that ‘Sister of Mercy’ reference? I couldn’t believe it – one of my very own Sisters! lol

  9. maksbestfriend says:

    Yes I did, and did you see that they often went to Omaha for treatments?

  10. Wow – Omaha is actually on the map, Picoult-style. 🙂

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