Handle With Care Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Handle With Care

The story is about a family struggling emotionally and financially with their second daughter's serious illness, and how it tears them apart after the daughter's hospital scare, and how ultimately they come together as a family again, although only for the reunion to end in tragedy at the daughter's death. An interesting novel following a family dealing with a child with brittle bone syndrome. The child with the condition is 6-year old Willow O'Keefe, who is otherwise a prodigy. Her parents are dealing with the financial and emotional and social burdens of raising her, and her sister Amelia has to deal with issues as well.
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An accident at Disney World during a family vacation leaves Willow being rushed to the hospital, but they don't have the letter from Willow's home hospital that she has brittle bone syndrome - which the family needs to prove that Willow's fractures and other injuries are the result of her condition, not family abuse or anything else that ER doctors might suspect. However, the lack of the letter leads the hospital near Disney World worried about Willow's home life and the social worker separates both Willow and her sister Amelia - who had spitefully complained about her parents as a childish retribution against all the attention they gave Amelia - from the O'Keefes, until the O'Keefes manage to get hold of Willow's doctor at home, who confirms Willow's condition and saves the family. Furious at what happened to them, the O'Keefes want to sue the Florida hospital. The lawsuit would have to say that the hospital where Willow was born did not adequately inform the O'Keefes of the serious repercussions of Willow's condition. Willow's mother Charlotte decides to sue, but Willow's father Sean does not want to. The couple separate and as the trial starts, Sean asks for a divorce. Amelia, distressed at the chaos in the family, has started self-mutilating by cutting herself. Willow sees this and starts to get influenced by this.

Concurrent to this storyline is another plot. An attractive woman named Marin begins searching for her birth mother (she was adopted) to investigate her health history. It will eventually turn out that Marin's birth mother is a juror on Willow's trial. Marin finds out later that she was given up for adoption because she was a product of rape.

During the trial, Willow feels guilty over the splits and stresses in their family and starts cutting in the courthouse bathroom. When the O'Keefe parents try to intervene and help, it arouses all the latent resentment that Amelia has kept buried over her parents' split and her own insecurities with Willow. Amelia tries to sabotage her mother by giving testimony in the trial against her, but Charlotte wins the trial.

With the trial won, the O'Keefe family tries to reunite and heal their differences. Charlotte and Sean make up and reunite, Amelia get therapy and starts to slowly heal from her self-hatred and self-destructive impulses, and the money from the trial will help the family pay for Willow's treatment after she becomes ineligible for free medicine from clinical trials. However, the story ends on a shockingly sad and tragic note, as Willow dies in a freak garden accident. The family is horrified by the tragedy, and they are left grieving, bitter, bewildered and sad in the end.
Best part of story, including ending: I liked that it showed the extreme stresses being put on the family and how it kind of pulled Willow's parents apart, but in an empathetic way. Parents are only human after all.

Best scene in story: When Amelia finds Willow cutting and they take the child to a hospital immediately in fear, and Willows says she did it because she saw Amelia doing it.

Opinion about the main character: I have named Willow as the main character for purposes of categorization but really the main character is the FAMILY. I suppose I liked Amelia least for her selfishness even though some of her trauma is understandable, but I love the mother Charlotte the most for her dedication to her children.

The review of this Book prepared by Princess Peach a Level 10 Peregrine Falcon scholar

Willow O'Keefe is only five years old and has had more broken bones than she can count, because she won the unfortunate, genetic problem that many know as "Brittle Bone Syndrome" Charlotte was already a single mom when she met and fell in love with Sean O'Keefe. Although he became a wonderful parent to her daughter, they also decided to have another child together, Fortunately, her good friend Piper Reece is also her obstetrician, so she was able to get an unusually clear ultrasound early in the pregnancy. The Diagnosis of Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bone Syndrome, was only diagnosed later, at a point in the pregnancy where there were fewer choices about whether or not to have Willow.

If one could be lucky to have a child with this potentially deadly disease, it is the parents whose child carries Type I OI. These children may live almost normal lives and some people have only been diagnosed with it later in life. Type II is almost always deadly to newborns and often causes stillbirths or late-term miscarriages, while type III is the most dangerous after infancy. Types IV-VI are more rare and feature varying symptoms of the first three types.

Willow O'Keefe has type III. She uses a wheelchair that is too small for her, but her family cannot afford the one she needs. Her father is a police officer and her mother was a professional baker, who now stays home to care for Willow. She was born with fractures and received more immediately after birth, but she was alive and that is not always expected with this illness.

On a trip to Disney World that the family cannot afford, Charlotte accidentally leaves the paperwork about her illness at home. When Willow breaks more bones, her parents are accused and arrested for child abuse. The children are temporarily placed in foster care and after her parents are able to retrieve them, they consult an attorney to see if they could sue. Once the fact that doing so is not a viable solution, the suggestion of suing the doctor who should have been able to diagnose the problem at the early ultrasound is given.

At first, they both reject the idea, but eventually Charlotte consults with a lawyer. She and Sean split up over the problem and Amelia begins to cut herself to deal with the stress. In addition, there are many people who believe that filing the lawsuit means they wish they had not had Willow, but in actuality it is that the suit was filed because they were not given information they had the right to know. Failing to note or diagnose the illness is considered to be a form of medical malpractice. The fact that it was a new ultrasound machine in use at that time did not remove the physician's responsibility.

The jury agrees and orders that Dr. Reece needs to pay the family 8 million dollars and she loses her job. She soon finds work at a much lower pay in a free clinic. Her friendship with the O'Keefe family shows no sign of ever being completely repaired, although overtures are made.

Charlotte and Ash reconcile, while Amelia goes to a special camp/facility for self-abusers. While there, she improves dramatically. As evidence of the reason for the lawsuit, the check for 8 million dollars is not cashed and attached to the refrigerator. Finally, in a brave moment of independence, Willow tries to walk across a pond with assistance or her wheelchair. She falls and drowns.
Best part of story, including ending: It was an honest reflection of the drama that most families experience when a serious illness occurs. It also makes you think more about what is right and what is wrong, because it is very easy to consider a family that sues the physician in a situation like this to be bad parents, although the other point of view is equally interesting.

Best scene in story: When Amelia is in the school library, her friend points out a recent magazine that features someone with the same illness as Willow who is married and has children. She knows that the chances of that happening for her sister are very slim and she seems more depressed after seeing it. She even removes the article from the library so nobody else can see it.

Opinion about the main character: In my opinion, Willow O'Keefe is the main character, regardless of her age. She is amazingly strong and bright, despite the pain she experiences each day. She is only five, but the entire book is about her, her illness, her relationship with her family and whether or not she should have been born. Her death at the end was both tragic and illuminating, and this book could easily give a voice to all sufferers of OI.

The review of this Book prepared by Roberta Still a Level 7 Marbled Godwit scholar

Chapter Analysis of Handle With Care

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   very sensitive (sigh)    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   1980's-1999    -   2000+ (Present Day) Family, caring for ill    -   Yes Who is sick?    -   Daughter because he/she is    -   physically ill Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   unemployed    -   homemaker Age:    -   a kid Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American) Unusual characteristics:    -   Physically sick


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   4 () United States    -   Yes

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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