Picks and Pans Review: Handle with Care

updated 03/09/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/09/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Jodi Picoult |

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This is a book about breaking: Breaking rules. Breaking hearts. Above all, breaking bones, namely those of a little girl named Willow who was born with osteogenesis imperfecta—OI, a rare collagen defect that causes severely brittle bones. Many babies with this very real condition never survive birth. But Willow does and becomes the fragile center of her mother's universe. Pastry chef Charlotte O'Keefe loves her disabled daughter to distraction and often to the exclusion of her older daughter and husband. She shatters her family's world further when she sues her ob-gyn (who also happens to be her best friend, Piper), claiming she should have been counselled to terminate her pregnancy with Willow. The case unleashes a swirl of debate over medical ethics and parents' choices, leaving this mother a pariah even in her own home. Picoult, a master of the domestic landscape, takes what could have been a catastrophically depressing premise and creates a dramatic page turner, relentlessly driving home what doctors tell Charlotte at Willow's birth: "You can't live a life without impact."

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