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on April 6, 2011
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'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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on October 11, 2015
The author's in-depth understanding of the human condition and how she magnificently brings you to understanding the characters in this story was deeply moving. A great read, and gives you lots to ponder over.....
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on February 9, 2012
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.
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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."
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on January 25, 2012
You can also read my review here: [...]

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!!
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on December 29, 2011
Jodi Picoult is a master. I marveled often at her abilities and frequently stopped to study her writing - when I wasn't busy whipping through the pages to see how this novel would end. A few short words and her characters leap off the page. I laughed, I cried, I thought and talked about the novel and its issues. And I couldn't stop thinking about it when I put it down. I suspect this one won't be forgotten easily.

Sing You Home was only the second Jodi Picoult novel I have read, and it was completely different the first one, Salem Falls which takes place in a small town and was full of multiple characters. Here we focus on a few characters who grew in my heart as they navigated through the issues they faced.

I had no idea what Sing You Home was about when I picked it up, but I expected something a little heavier and true to Picoult's style, it was full of controversy and surprising choices. Picoult does a fantastic job of painting characters so real and grounded in time and place. After a heart-splitting beginning, this novel journeys deep into the land of reproduction technology and the legalities surrounding frozen embryos. The pain of Zoe's infertility is achingly obvious as is the love she eventually shares with Vanessa and the discomfort and confusion Max struggles with is palpable.

The ending surprised me. I struggled throughout this novel to predict the outcome but would never have been able to figure it out. It chocked me up and it wasn't expected which I enjoyed. Fan of Picoult will not be disappointed.
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on January 18, 2012
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!
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on August 18, 2011
I have read much better books written by Jodi and found this one
totally boring, expected much more, a true disappointment!!!
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on April 20, 2011
I have read many of Jodi's books and enjoyed all of them. I don't know how she continues to come up with new ideas but as long as she does, I will keep buying! An excellent read.
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on December 2, 2013
Well done. A different prospective on a gay relationship and the issue regarding not only unborn embryos but also the question of adoption. Well researched.
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