Discussion #2 & Final Wrap-up: Handle with Care

Now with the final discussion and wrap-up of book #33 Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult. To help finish up, let’s give these questions a try:

  • All the characters in the book are telling their stories to Willow. Willow doesn’t have a voice until the end of the book. How is that effective to the entire story? Does it seem that the characters can be more honest in their feelings when they’re directed to Willow?
  • The author inserts recipes throughout the book that highlight certain baking techniques such as tempering, blind baking, and weeping. How do these recipes provide further insight into the story and into Charlotte’s character in particular?
  • Discuss the roles that honesty and deception play in this novel. How do the characters lie to themselves? To each other? Is it sometimes better not to know the truth?
  • Amelia, understandably, has conflicting emotions concerning Willow. How does Amelia show her compassion? How does she show a lack of such? What are your feelings toward Willow? Toward Amelia? How do you think Amelia’s testimony affects the outcome of the case?
  • We follow Marin through the search for her birth mother, and what she eventually finds out about the circumstances surrounding her conception are truly devastating. Why do you think she thanks her birth mother for this information? Discuss Marin’s reaction to what she learns.
  • How do you feel about the ending? Why do you think the author chose to write it this way?
  • What rating do you give Handle with Care on a scale from 1-10 (1=awful, 10=amazing)?

Simply… wow.

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6 Responses to Discussion #2 & Final Wrap-up: Handle with Care

  1. I’m only on pg 358 but determined to finish today. Will post answers soon! Happy Easter, Chicken Lit’ers!

  2. Finished! And ‘yes’, I cried. Major tearjerker… 😥

    Now on with the discussion.

  3. Here goes:

    • All the characters in the book are telling their stories to Willow. Willow doesn’t have a voice until the end of the book. How is that effective to the entire story? Does it seem that the characters can be more honest in their feelings when they’re directed to Willow?
    At first I found the characters’ directing stories to Willow confusing, but then I started figuring it out – all the relationships and events taking place in the book center around Willow, and the characters appear to be explaining to Willow the ‘how/why’ in which things are happening, speaking honestly and from the heart. Throughout the novel, they seem to be involved in a battle to protect Willow as she continues to break. In the end, it’s as if the biggest battle has been fought, leaving Willow free to speak for herself.

    • The author inserts recipes throughout the book that highlight certain baking techniques such as tempering, blind baking, and weeping. How do these recipes provide further insight into the story and into Charlotte’s character in particular?
    Charlotte uses cooking as an outlet for expressing her feelings, and the author skillfully selects specific recipes during key moments within the novel to reflect Charlotte’s emotions. I thought Picoult’s descriptions of baking techniques provided a better understanding of what Charlotte was experiencing – she helps the reader envision what’s going on in Charlotte’s head.

    • Discuss the roles that honesty and deception play in this novel. How do the characters lie to themselves? To each other? Is it sometimes better not to know the truth?
    Honesty and deception weave in and out so much in this novel that it’s dizzying! Charlotte deceives Piper by claiming she would’ve aborted Willow had she known of OI after the first ultrasound; Amelia deceives her parents by hiding her ‘behaviors’ and again by testifying against her mother; etc. etc. etc. It’s all so sad, but really, reality tends to work this way. The truth can be painful, but it’s better to know the truth than to be deceived in the end.

    • Amelia, understandably, has conflicting emotions concerning Willow. How does Amelia show her compassion? How does she show a lack of such? What are your feelings toward Willow? Toward Amelia? How do you think Amelia’s testimony affects the outcome of the case?
    Amelia seems to waffle in her feelings for her sister throughout the book, which is understandable when her parent’s attention revolves completely around Willow leaving Amelia to fend for herself. At times Amelia shows compassion, such as by tucking her sister in at night when her mother was unavailable. But then Amelia turns around and uses harsh language and lashes out at Willow after feeling slighted. Amelia’s testimony was meant to be used against her mother – but then backfired. Charlotte was touched and thought Amelia’s words were to be used as protection for Willow, rather than evidence against her case. Yet in the end, Amelia’s testimony allowed the jury to see how far Charlotte was willing to go to protect Willow, deceptive or not.

    • We follow Marin through the search for her birth mother, and what she eventually finds out about the circumstances surrounding her conception are truly devastating. Why do you think she thanks her birth mother for this information? Discuss Marin’s reaction to what she learns.
    Closure, pure and simple. Marin needed to know the reason behind her birth mother’s repulsion against her and choice to put her up for adoption so that she could move on with her life. She thanks her mother because she knows the circumstances were extremely difficult to endure, let alone to tell a birth child in person. Marin’s subsequent adopting of a child shows that she grew from her new found knowledge and was able to love someone else who might have experienced the same void.

    • How do you feel about the ending? Why do you think the author chose to write it this way?
    I found the ending to be an extreme jab at the heart. The story was already very sad in so many ways, and to end it so abruptly in the way that she did tore my heart right out of my chest. I think Picoult is making a point by indicating how deception is rarely, if ever, justified.

    • What rating do you give Handle with Care on a scale from 1-10 (1=awful, 10=amazing)?
    Picoult’s writing style gets a perfect 10, but heart wrenching novels such as these are typically not my cup of tea. So I’m giving this book a 9.5.

  4. maksbestfriend says:

    All the characters in the book are telling their stories to Willow. Willow doesn’t have a voice until the end of the book. How is that effective to the entire story? Does it seem that the characters can be more honest in their feelings when they’re directed to Willow?

    I think that the fact that Willow’s voice is not heard, A) until she cuts herself, trying to mimic her sister, in an attempt to show her parents that she is flesh and blood and that she feels in more ways than just when her bones break, and B) when she goes to the pond and falls through the ice. She has a voice and no one hears her cries for help in her hour of most dire need. When she needed her parents the most they could not hear her cries for help. Very poignant, how she was virtually silent for the majority of the book, except for two tragic moments.

    I think that both showed just how fragile this child was, and not just in her physical disability. Her mental state from the beginning of all of this lawsuit was tenuous.

    The author inserts recipes throughout the book that highlight certain baking techniques such as tempering, blind baking, and weeping. How do these recipes provide further insight into the story and into Charlotte’s character in particular?

    I think that sometimes Charlotte can only best express herself when she is baking. Like that is her one area where she can be truly honest. I don’t know if that makes sense, but she can translate the different elements in baking into how her emotions were playing out at different times during the book. A coping mechanism of sorts.

    Discuss the roles that honesty and deception play in this novel. How do the characters lie to themselves? To each other? Is it sometimes better not to know the truth?

    I think that the deceptions and lies are so interwoven that it is hard to see where one lie ended and another one began. Everyone was lying on some level or another, except for the following characters, Willow and Marin’s mother. Neither of these two characters had reason to lie, and went through the book and their efforts to stay above or out of the fray is admirable. I found it very hard, from a birth mom standpoint, to see Marin force herself on her biological mother without giving her some warning. That I felt was so incredibly unfair. Then to learn the circumstances of her own conception and birth, and retraumatizing a woman who was but a child herself in her effort to get to the truth. Charlotte herself, really should have stopped. She did so much collateral damage. How many lives and reputations did she damage because of her claim? What good was that 8 million dollar payday at the end?

    Amelia, understandably, has conflicting emotions concerning Willow. How does Amelia show her compassion? How does she show a lack of such? What are your feelings toward Willow? Toward Amelia? How do you think Amelia’s testimony affects the outcome of the case? I think Amelia’s lack of compassion shows in her shortness, her cutting, her lack of understanding of what Willow is going through.

    I think that Willow was a child who was stuck in a life situation not of her making that was trying to make the best go of it she could. She wanted to do all the things that her big sister could and could not always understand why she could not. I think that Willow was a remarkable child.

    I think that Amelia, deep down loves/loved Willow. I don’t think, as a child, she completely understood, nor should she have had to, the complicated nature of what was happening with her sister. I think that she felt left out or on the sidelines of life a lot in an effort to make sure that Willow was always included. Look at the Disneyworld trip. They had to do all the kiddie rides because that would be what Willow could do. I think that Amelia deep down would have done anything and everything for her sister. I think that sometimes she felt so frustrated at feeling like the odd person out, or the one with all the responsibility so young when Willow was in the hospital with all of her breaks.

    I think that Amelia’s testimony did the last thing that Booker wanted. It garnered sympathy for Charlotte. It solidified her hardships and human side to the jury. I think that is what pushed the jury in her direction.

    We follow Marin through the search for her birth mother, and what she eventually finds out about the circumstances surrounding her conception are truly devastating. Why do you think she thanks her birth mother for this information? Discuss Marin’s reaction to what she learns.

    I think that she thanks her birth mother, partly because it is the kind and gracious thing to do, because she ripped open this womans wounds, that should have lost since been healed. I think that she went about that the wrong way. I think that she should have followed the courts directives before she approached her, but Marin seems very headstrong. I hope that she softened her approach in the fact that she adopted a child and she learned from what she did and will be more open and gentle with her own.

    How do you feel about the ending? Why do you think the author chose to write it this way?

    You know, I read this at night before I went to bed. I was stunned. I did not think that I had read it correctly. I got up the next day and reread it again, to be sure that I hadn’t. I was devastated. Definitely not the ending that I was anticipating. I think that Jodi was telling us that no matter what we think that we are accomplishing in life, sometimes the ends never justify the means. And life is most definitely short. And what you think in your deepest, darkest moments, has this way of maybe coming back to you in ways that you never imagine. Charlotte could never imagine her life without her daughter. Now she has the reality of it. All that time wasted. Never to be gotten back. So tragically sad.

    What rating do you give Handle with Care on a scale from 1-10 (1=awful, 10=amazing)?

    I give this book a 10 for her writing style, but I have to give it a 9-9.5 for the ending.

    I hope that this makes sense.

  5. @maksbestfriend – Your answers really hit home. Every word made sense to me… thank you for reading even though it wasn’t the easiest to take on.

    I’m curious… since you’ve read other books by Jodi Picoult, are most of her books this shockingly tragic? If so, I might have to pass on reading more books by her. This kind of reading is not entertaining to me, but rather, a serious downer. :/

  6. maksbestfriend says:

    Good morning. I don’t think that they all have this tragic ending like this book did. But they all do play on matters of the heart and life and love and how they all interact, if that makes sense. She is the type of author who delves into what makes people do what they do, their inner psyche (if I am using the right word).

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