I sincerely love when authors--and, perhaps more accurately, publishers--expand their notion of traditional storytelling by writing a book that follows a slightly different format: novels in verse, illustrated novels for adults, stories that are told in a multitude of media. Sometimes the risk doesn't always pay off, but I really enjoy the effort. Jodi Picoult's novel, Sing You Home, falls into that category by being the first novel that I've read that comes with its own soundtrack. The book has a CD included that acts as a companion to the story being told.
The novel's main protagonist is Zoe Baxter, a music therapist who uses music in every aspect of her life, both professionally and personally. While the novel isn't really about music, the author felt that the reader should hear Zoe's voice, since the character uses music and singing so much. Jodi Picoult's good friend Ellen Wilber acted as the voice and musical composer behind all of the tracks on the CD.
While I don't think the novel really needed the soundtrack and the resulting CD is probably not one I would buy just to listen to, I really like the idea behind it. I like the multi-media approach very much. And the novel certainly isn't hindered by the music, even if it does stand up perfectly well on its own.
The story centres around Zoe's failed attempts at conceiving and carrying a child to term, followed by her divorce and subsequent remarriage to a woman named Vanessa. Her lesbian relationship and her attempt to find a way to have a child with her new wife brings a world of criticism from her community and her ex-husband Max, a recovering alcoholic who "finds Jesus" in the form of an anti-gay Evangelical Christian church. The narrative is divided into sections that correspond to the tracks on the CD and the individual chapters are from the first-person perspective of Zoe, Max and Vanessa alternately. The "Max" chapters were actually a little difficult to read sometimes because they were written with such detail and sincerity but what his character was saying and feeling was so hateful and anti-gay.
In the end, though, the book was an incredibly rewarding read. I was emotionally invested in all of the characters, even the ones whose opinions I found challenging. More than once I found myself in tears, particularly by the end. Granted, it hit me on a lot of points personally: as an educator, an atheist with many very religious loved ones, an advocate for gay rights, a parent who also has friends who struggle with infertility, a proponent of women's reproductive rights and a person--like most--who has struggled with the meaning of love marriage. I felt like the novel was written for me personally. But I also felt like a lot of people would feel exactly the same way when they read it.