When I refer to Jodi Picoult's work as "trashy fiction for snobs," I mean it as a compliment. True, her books border on formulaic (contentious topic + multiple voices + courtroom drama + final plot twist = happy ending) but she does write engaging prose about current, controversial issues. Sing You Home is Picoult's eighteenth novel (so she's doing something right!) and the fifth that I've read. It centers around music therapist Zoe Baxter who, in the span of six months, has a miscarriage, gets divorced, falls in love with her female best friend, remarries and fights in court for the rights to her own embryos. Geez, I thought I was busy baking, running, walking the dog and raising an infant! Predictable? Slightly. Corny? Absolutely. But also thought-provoking: at what point do two cells become an "unborn child?" Can a middle ground exist between atheism and fundamentalism? What does it mean to be a parent? And, perhaps most interestingly, how does one explain the healing power of music? After all, "there is no evolutionary context within which people's response to music makes sense...the only way to be moved by the spirit, so to speak, is to have one in the first place."
Brilliantly written! I sit in awe as I think about the amount of time, research and effort that goes into writing a book of this quality. Do I agree with everything? No. Did it change my mind on any religious convictions? No. Did it make me think about issues that others face on a daily basis in this world of ours? Most definitely.
I enjoyed how Mrs. Picoult gave each protagonist a voice, although I don't think each protagonist had an "equal" voice. I liked Zoe and my heart ached for her - her character was believable. I found Vanessa to be somewhat annoying in her way of thinking, and I also think she was given a more significant voice than the other characters. The author seemed to favour her more. I wouldn't have wanted her as my enemy. Max, overall, was my favourite character and I knew he would do the right thing in the end. Of course, 'the right thing' is different depending on the perspective of so many different characters and beliefs in the story
This book covers a few very sensitive issues which could bother some readers and I didn't think the back cover fairly described the plot, alerting the readers on what to expect.
Zoe and Max Baxter have spent ten years trying to have a baby. Despite infertility issues, and multiple miscarriages, it looks like their dream is about to come true - Zoe is seven months pregnant. But sadly, things do not go according to plan and she and Max divorce. Afterwards, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist - using music clinically to soothe burn victims in a hospital; to help Alzheimer's patients connect with the present; and to provide solace for hospice patients. And then Vanessa, a school guidance counsellor, asks her to work with a suicidal teenaged girl. Vanessa and Zoe become friends, and then they fall in love and marry. Zoe and Vanessa would like to have their own family, and Zoe remembers that she and Max had three frozen embryos still in storage.
Meanwhile, Max has joined an evangelical church, whose charismatic pastor, Clive Lincoln, has vowed to fight the `homosexual agenda' which he considers threatens traditional family values in America. When Zoe seeks Max's permission for her and Vanessa to use the embryos so that they can have a child, Max, with the help of his church, goes to court to fight for ownership. Private matters become public while lifestyles are dissected and judged.
The story is told through the perspectives of Zoe, Max and Vanessa. While mainly focussed on relationships, it includes issues like alcoholism, cancer, infertility and intolerance. I didn't enjoy this novel as much as most of the other Jodi Picoult novels I have read. Why? I think it is partly because so many different issues were packed into the story, partly because the ending felt contrived, and partly because I didn't care for most of the characters. And yet, the novel has worked: it's got me thinking about some of the issues involved.
What constitutes a family? `You can't choose who you love'
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.
Where to begin? This book is full of so much emotion that it was hard to not feel swayed one way or another. As someone that works for an Evangenical church, I found this book very hard to digest but not because of the 'anti-Christian' context, because of the 'Christian' context. I guess I am one that falls outside the box when it comes to religion. Believing that a person has a right to choose how they live their lives without it affecting my day-to-day life.
Having also gone through minor infertility issues myself, I found Jodi Picoult's account of the feelings and emotions involved with each failed cycle to be bang on. Understanding the devastation that parents/partners go through is so hard to describe and she did it beautifully.
While I will never be able to fully wrap myself around the 'same-sex' issues (because I haven't dealt with them first or really, second, hand), Sing You Home, has made me realize that there are people out there who struggle each and every day just to get by in a world that is unaccepting, a world that judges/hates/bullys, a world that is cruel. I hope that this book hits home in some of those 'unaccepting' people and makes them realize that it really isn't about them... it's about us.
Overall, this book was wonderfully written and hit home on each and every basis of the story. Never going to far one way or the other and showing each side of the 'story' fairly and accurately (sadly). Another great book by a great author!!
I was thrilled to see this novel sitting on the shelf at our local library and snatched it up thinking I had an enthralling novel to sit down and enjoy. I was thoroughly disappointed. I find that I either love Picoult's novels or I hate them and unfortunately this one definitely landed in the latter category. Found the subject matter depressing and exasperating in turn. If we were suppose to care for the characters in this book the author failed miserably. I could not identify or sympathize with any of them. Only got about five chapters in before I set the book aside and started another. Maybe her next one will be an improvement. Hope so!
I was forced to read this by my book group, even though even they had previously agreed that we were tired of the Picoult formula. I hoped to be pleasantly surprised. I cannot remember a book that left me feeling more emotionally manipulated. Anger is not what I pick up a book for. I read to be informed or entertained. You can feel Picoult pressing all the reader's buttons; it isn't subtle, it's laid on with a trowel. I am also tired of her characters giving me what feels like a patronising lecture on their field of knowledge and it is in exactly the same voice in every book, no matter who the character is. All these women seem like the same person but with different family circumstances. It is the patented all-occasion Picoult female character. She churns a new novel out in nine months from beginning to end, she says, and it shows.