Why I Re-Read the Book My Sister’s Keeper

I don’t normally re-read books, especially fictional ones. Minus a phase where I re-read The Secret Garden, Little Women and the Anne of Green Gables series over and over, I don’t normally find the need to re-read a story that isn’t/wasn’t real. I have re-read a few parenting books (and am planning to re-read The No-Cry Potty Training Solution in the near future). I have re-read a few adoption related books (Lifegivers and The Girls Who Went Away). And I re-read childrens’ books umpteen times per day. But fictional adult books? I don’t think I’ve done it since that infatuation with the above mentioned young-girl escapism type books.

I chose to re-read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult last week for a number of reasons. It remains one of my favorite books (despite not being overly impressed with some of her other novels). I read it back when it was first released and I have loved the drama, the concepts presents and the twist at the end. I loved getting involved with the book. But I had forgotten some things over the years and so I decided to sit down with the book once again since the movie was released in theaters today.

I had forgotten that the husband in the book was a firefighter. To be fair, as I read this book before FireDad was hired on the department (remember, he got hired just after we were married), I wasn’t really indoctrinated into the fire life just yet. Reading it this time, I found myself nodding my head at some of the mentions of fire life. You know, except for the part where Brian, the father, has Anna, the daughter asking for medical emancipation from her parents, move into the fire department with him. Sorry. Not going to happen in real life.

I had forgotten the questions the book made me ask, back before I was parenting these two boys. I asked them aloud this time, involving FireDad in my internal back-and-forth, whether we would ever consider bringing another child into our lives to save one of the boys. (Not that I can carry another child.) Or, even without that, would we force one of our existing children to donate anything to another if the child in question had reservations or simply didn’t want to do it. We had some interesting discussions, the two of us, as I quickly devoured the pages in the book once more.

There were quotes in the book that struck me this time around, ones that maybe I thought of last time but I was in a different place. I dog-eared the pages of my book this time around (yes, I’m that reader) and have considered each of them deeply. One quote, a paragraph, spoke to me deeply.

It would have been better, of course, if Luisa, had been in her own room, as her mother expected. But kids don’t always stay where they’re supposed to. You turn around and find her not in the bedroom but hiding in a closet; you turn around and she’s not three but thirteen. Parenting is really just a matter of tracking, of hoping your kids to not get so far ahead you can no longer see their next moves.

I mean, isn’t that true? That, combined with a trio of sentence just down the page from the above set of truths really blew me away.

I became a firefighter because I wanted to save people. But I should have been more specific. I should have named names.

Ah, yes.

I’ll be honest, I’m not thrilled about the book being turned into a movie. I rarely (and I do mean rarely) like the movie more than the book. In fact, more often than not, I hate the movie because it is so rarely a true representation of the written word. This movie, so far, is no different. As an example, the mother in the book is a brunette. Cameron Diaz, my least favorite actress on today’s scene, is not a brunette. Nor do I feel she will be able to do this part justice despite the rave reviews she is getting from critics. (I also rarely agree with the critics, mind you.)

When you combine my dislike of the actress portraying the mother with the fact that THEY CHANGED THE ENDING, well, I find little room for hope. The ending of this book makes the book. The ending of this story makes the story. Without this ending, the way that it is written, the book would still be well-written and intriguing. But it wouldn’t push you to that brink, to question everything you just read, to question life as it is. It wouldn’t make you catch your breath, shake your fist at God and generally dissolve into a puddle of tears. If you change the ending, you change the book. And while Picoult was very gracious in her USA Today interview about the change of ending, had it been me, I would have said something like, “I wash my hands of it.” And then I would have spat at the ground.

I’m nothing if not dramatic, no?

I will likely wait until the movie comes out on DVD before subjecting myself to what I imagine to be two hours of drinding my teeth every time Cameron Diaz opens her mouth. I will try to avoid spoilers of the changed ending but, knowing the internet, someone will offer one when I am least expecting it, hiding it behind a click of something else entirely. I will see the movie because I am a glutton for punishment, a book lover who will want to see if, in the end, they did one of her favorites justice on the Silver Screen. But I fear the results, of course.

Just as I sat in fear of the end of the book during my re-read. And I knew what was coming. I prefer it that way, really.

 

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Should You Marry a Firefighter?

Fire Cake (Not Ours)Someone found our blog by Googling, “Should I marry a firefighter?” It’s an interesting question, really.

When FireDad and I said our vows, we had already been through the long and involved process of testing and interviewing to be hired by the fire department. We were actually enduring the middle of a hiring freeze as I walked down the aisle toward him on that cold, December day. Prior to all of this, during our dating days (and, really, prior to me), he was a volunteer firefighter (and paid the bills as a Paramedic). I had an inkling of what fire life would be like but… I also had no clue. He was hired by the fire department shortly after our wedding. And during our honeymooning year, I got the baptismal by fire, literally, into the depths of fire life.

And so, I have some advice, of course, having lived this life for five years now.

Don’t marry a firefighter if you are relying on their presence or the stability of their schedule. The pager will go off on Christmas Eve as you are trying to build a bike together. There will be a fully involved structure fire on the morning of your big interview, leaving you scrambling to find child care. They will work on your birthday, their birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and every other holiday imaginable. Not all in the same year (though that list in the previous sentence is true for us this year, sigh) but eventually, all of them. More in some years than in others. On days you have plans to work on the house or get things done, they will be needed at the fire house. On a day that you planned on doing nothing more than relaxing, the sound of fire sirens leaving the station will bring a halt to your attempt at relaxation, nerves on edge. And, more than once, they will be summoned to a fire from the heat of passion in your own bedroom. Trust me, it happens.

Do marry a firefighter if you want someone who is reliable. Does that contradict what I just said? No. Their nature is one of loyalty and, as such, reliability. If they say they’re going to do something, it will get done. Sometimes that means after the fire but it always means that it will get done. They usually tend to understand that you are also at the mercy of the fire house even though you are not a firefighter. As such, they genuinely tend to keep promises. Not all of them. There are bad apples just like in every other profession. But, for the most part, they’re good, loyal people.

Don’t marry a firefighter if you don’t want other people to think that your spouse is “hot.” Firefighters, male or female, are ogled. They are winked at, looked at, smiled at and flirted with everywhere from the bank to the elementary school. It happens. It’s that love of heroism and bravery and uniforms and strength and everything all rolled into one. And fire trucks! Everyone loves a fire truck as it goes speeding by.

Do marry a firefighter if you love the way fire smells mixed in with your significant others’ natural smell. It can be intoxicating.

Don’t marry a firefighter if you think it’s all about heroism and bravery. Sometimes it’s about washing garage floors and checking trucks. Sometimes it’s about arguments at their Union meetings, which you can’t always know the intricate details about but still need to offer support. Sometimes it’s about petty grumpiness within the fire house. Sometimes it’s about raising money for a new truck. Sometimes it’s about them taking a night out, despite having been gone the 24 hours before, with their fellow firefighters to cool down, chill out.

Don’t marry a firefighter if you think it will be an easy life, a decision you will never question. To be honest, all people married to others with any number of jobs have moments of, “You care more about your job than you care about me!” You may want to yell, “Family should come first!” To be fair, when they’re rushing out the door leaving you to wash all the dishes from the Christmas dinner you just hosted, they are caring about family first. It’s someone else’s family at the moment but, yes, a family. Learning that sometimes you just have to suck it up at times is a long process. Sometimes it’s a lonely one.

Don’t marry a firefighter if you can’t sleep alone without them there. Do marry a firefighter if you’d like to hog the bed to yourself every third night. (Note: if they take one day off, that means that you will have to sleep together for five days in a row. Can you handle it without sending them to the couch?)

Don’t marry a firefighter if you would never “allow” your children to be firefighters. First of all, the idea that you can shape what grown adult children do or do not do is simply funny. Secondly, it runs through the veins. (I’ll be talking about this soon.) They’re going to see Mommy or Daddy on a fire truck and they’re going to want to do it. Maybe it will be a short-lived childhood obsession. Maybe they will join the fire service. However, telling them that it isn’t a job they are “allowed” to do not only is silly but ends up putting down your spouse.

Do marry a firefighter if you want your children to have a built in hero. Yes, I know, it’s not all about heroism and bravery but, to a child, it really, really is. To boot, pun intended, your spouse can be an example of how staying clean, being responsible and working hard can benefit your child when they’re a grumpy teen wanting to follow the crowd.

If it seems that there are more “don’ts” here than “do’s” the reason is simple and is the below point:

Don’t marry a firefighter for any other reason than wanting to spend the rest of your life with that person. The rest of the stuff will fall together if you truly possess that love and commitment that comes with any marriage. There will be times when you will argue (like in any marriage). Sometimes you will argue about the job in question. Fire families, like other families, make sacrifices when it comes to schedules and last minute changes. But it’s a good family to be a part of in the end.

And so, would I suggest that the reader who found our blog marry that firefighter? Well, I just asked FireDad if he thought our reader should marry a firefighter. He said, “Well, probably not.” That’s just him being humble. Or stubborn. Or silly. Or anything else that he is. But, then again, I’m sure he’d have a few things to say about being married to a writer. (Maybe I should have him write that someday.)

2007, Pregnant with LB

In the end, I love being married to a firefighter. Our life is stable and crazy all at once. My children obviously love visiting the fire department. And, yes, women make eyes at him but, in the end, he comes home to me at night. I love his honesty, his loyalty, his sense of humor, his devotion to what he loves and his bravery. We argue at times, like any other couple but I can’t imagine being married to anyone else.

And that’s how you know if you should marry a firefighter or not.

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[Cake photo credit. No, it wasn’t ours. But that sure is us in the other picture.]