Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review: Sing You Home

This was my first Jodi Picoult novel. I recently watched a segment of an Ellen DeGeneres show where she interviewed Ms. Picoult and discussed this book.  The subject matter is dear to my heart so I took the bait.  I’m glad I did.  This was a thoroughly enjoyable read (and at times it provided a compelling excuse to avoid my translation work).

Picoult has a beautiful use of language and I enjoyed the rather female point of view she put on the page.
Rather than try and write my own review let me just say I recommend this book and have included below paraphrased excerpts of a March 15, 2011 review by Susan Salter Reynolds published in the Los Angeles Times.  I will also include it in my list of books available for lending at the Expat Lending Library.
Oh, and I should mention that the book comes with a CD that includes original tracks that reflect the mood and emotion of Zoe, the main character (and music therapist), as she winds her way through the story.  Cute touch. Music by Ellen Wilber; lyrics by Jodi Picoult; all songs are performed by Ellen Wilber.
Here are bits from the review:
Picoult is known for her ability to shed light on the issues affecting domestic life in America. She picks an issue — in the case of Sing You Home, same-sex couples and the emotional and legal issues surrounding fertility procedures — and explores it from several perspectives, including legal, medical, religious, political. She complicates already complicated dilemmas in her plots.

Picoult works hard to keep her characters from being straw men and women. The closer she gets to real life, real people, real problems, the better the novel. In a country as polarized as ours, for a Democrat as active as Picoult (who gives a lot of money to various causes and institutions) it's not always easy to make, say, the anti-abortion activist, the anti-gay-marriage minister or the school board bureaucrat banning books into sympathetic characters. But the writer must try. For without the insight into the motives and convictions of characters on both sides of an issue, the novel will fall flat.

When the novel opens, Zoe and Max have just had yet another miscarriage. The cost of in vitro fertilization has used up their savings (they are not wealthy), and the emotional strain of Zoe's determination and desire to force her body into motherhood has finally overwhelmed Max, who struggles with alcoholism and low self-esteem.

They divorce. Max goes to live with his wealthy brother Reid and sister-in-law Liddy, devout Christians and members of an evangelical church who are struggling with their inability to conceive. Max has a revelation one drunken night and joins the church. Zoe, a music therapist in schools and hospitals, falls in love with a guidance counselor at one of the schools — a woman named Vanessa.

Vanessa has been in the open about her sexuality since high school; Zoe has never had a sexual relationship with a woman. She just loves Vanessa. They marry but have to cross state lines (from Rhode Island to Massachusetts) to do so. When the subject of children comes up, Zoe remembers that there are three frozen embryos unspoken for in the wake of the divorce. She asks Max for permission to use them, but he's persuaded by his church's pastor (who, with his congregation, believes homosexuality to be a depraved lifestyle choice) to deny her request and offer the embryos to Reid and Liddy.
What a plot! Zoe, Max and Vanessa are thrown into decisions and situations for which they are utterly unprepared. Picoult's supporting characters — Zoe's New Age mother, a suicidal teenager Zoe treats each week, the church pastor and the lawyer who represents Zoe and Vanessa in the courtroom drama at the novel's end — are equally unforgettable, though we do not travel as far into their psyches as the author takes us into her main characters.

It's not the happy endings that keep her readers coming back, for she does not always provide them; it's the possibility that humans can be kind, even when they don't get exactly what they want.

I’m looking forward to reading Picoult’s novel My Sister’s Keeper.


The Reader said...

Putting this on my Must Read list; I love Piccoult's stuff. This topic sounds like a great one.

Born Again Brazilian said...

Thanks for this! I'm always looking for a good read.