Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
Book description~ Zoe Baxter has spent ten years trying to get pregnant, and after multiple miscarriages and infertility issues, it looks like her dream is about to come true – she is seven months pregnant. But a terrible turn of events leads to a nightmare – one that takes away the baby she has already fallen for; and breaks apart her marriage to Max. In the aftermath, she 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; to provide solace for hospice patients. When Vanessa – a guidance counselor — asks her to work with a suicidal teen, their relationship moves from business to friendship and then, to Zoe’s surprise, blossoms into love. When Zoe allows herself to start thinking of having a family, again, she remembers that there are still frozen embryos that were never used by herself and Max.
Meanwhile, Max has found peace at the bottom of a bottle – until he is redeemed by an evangelical church, whose charismatic pastor – Clive Lincoln – has vowed to fight the “homosexual agenda” that has threatened traditional family values in America. But this mission becomes personal for Max, when Zoe and her same-sex partner say they want permission to raise his unborn child. SING YOU HOME explores what it means to be gay in today’s world, and how reproductive science has outstripped the legal system. Are embryos people or property? What challenges do same-sex couples face when it comes to marriage and adoption? What happens when religion and sexual orientation – two issues that are supposed to be justice-blind – enter the courtroom? And most importantly, what constitutes a “traditional family” in today’s day and age?
After recently reading 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult ( pronounced Pee-KOE), I didn’t think I could like another of her novels as much…then I read Sing You Home, and I ate my words. This novel is incredible in every way. Before I get into the meat of my review of the actual novel, I want to share with you what made my reading experience even richer this time around; the experience I shared with some of my book club babes at the book release event for Sing You Home we attended in DC two weeks ago at the 6th & I St. Synagogue Cultural Center. The event was unlike all the other book events I’d ever attended and probably will attend. The event was at a synagogue and cultural center, which in itself alone expanded the horizons of many. Just because you do not relate to one religious group or another, tolerance of others beliefs, I believe, is paramount in being a good member of society and leading by example. The setting was a perfect backdrop for an evening of thought-provoking discussion about our current societal intolerance. Naturally, the idea that Picoult and her team wanted to show acceptance in the scene of the event, I thought, really spoke to the ideals in the book she was promoting.
The event was also not a standard vanilla reading, Q&A, and signing. Instead, it was an actual live interview between Picoult and a very well-known columnist from The Washington Post newspaper. The interview was insightful, thought-provoking, and truly an evening that left me feeling changed. In typical fashion, the girls and I made an event out of it so we got into town plenty early, dined in ChinaTown and then camped out on the steps of the cultural center and were first in line for the event. About 30 minutes after us, the line was wrapped around the city blocks. Picoult draws a crowd wherever she goes! This afforded us the ability to not only be front and center but we also got to meet Picoult before anyone else (and got us out of there at a reasonable hour for a work night)! Having read more than a handful of Picoult’s novels, we were all impressed with the interviewer; he really knew the body of Picoult’s works and had such great questions that spurred fantastic dialogue about truly controversial topics. Picoult also shared with the audience that one of her sons is gay and it is her moral, ethical, maternal obligation to raise awareness for tolerance around the country and for generations to come. What gave me an even deeper appreciation for Picoult as an author and an artist, was the fact that she stressed how in her books, her goal is NEVER to sway you or convince you or preach right and wrong. But what she does is try to make you, the reader, walk in someone else’s shoes and learn about a viewpoint you may have ignored. Through this, you will hopefully learn acceptance of others regardless if they believe what you do, or live the way you do, or even love the way you do. You may believe one thing. But is it your right to dictate your neighbor’s beliefs? If it were only that simple, we’d have no hate crimes.
I digress…the event was also so unique because it was the first novel I’ve ever known that used mixed media; Picoult wanted the main character, Zoe, to have a real voice. Picoult wrote 9 original songs to each accompany the 9 chapters of the novel. Her friend and musician performed at the end of the interview portion of the event before the Q&A session, bringing Zoe’s voice to life. Even cooler? The CD of all 9 songs was included in the flap of the novel for everyone to enjoy in tandem with their reading experience!
Ok, so the book! Wow, wow, wow. Not even sure where to go begin because this book was SO incredibly thorough and spanned so many controversial topics, all woven and paced SO impeccably it left my head spinning (in a good way)! Obviously as you know from reading my reviews, I don’t rehash the books’ events, I rather react to them. You can tell by the description blurb up above if it’s a book you want to read or not. So with that, the shear idea of reproductive rights and embryo donation alone would’ve been more than enough fodder for an entire novel. But then add to it gay rights, radical religious viewpoints, abortion, the power of music therapy on teens on the edge of suicide, whether a zygote or embryo are considered a life, where the love goes when a marriage dissolves, and how these issues play out in a court of law will leave you with paper cuts you’ll be turning the pages so fast (or a blister from pressing your e-readers)!
“Once, Zoe and I went to a wedding of one of her clients. It was a Jewish wedding, and it was really beautiful- with trappings and traditions I had never seen before. Th bride and groom stood under a canopy, and the prayers were in an unfamiliar language. at the end, the rabbi had the groom stomp on a wineglass wrapped in a napkin. May your marriage last as long as it would take to put these pieces back together, he said. Afterward, when everyone was congratulating the couple, I sneaked underneath the canopy and took a tiny shard of glass from the napkin where it still lay on the grass. I threw it into the ocean on the way home, so that, no matter what, that glass could never be reconstructed, so the couple would stay together forever. When Zoe asked what I was doing and I told her, she said she thought she loved me more in that moment than she ever had before.”
What I loved most about this novel and her other works is just how ridiculously fair Picoult can be as a writer. My favorite thing about her writing style, that many have started to copy, is how each of her character’s get their own voice as the book is told from each of the main character’s perspectives. It’s amazing how Picoult is able to craft their voices and develop their characters so distinctly from one another. This allows the reader to feel such compassion for both the protagonist and antagonist simultaneously, even if you never thought you’d see eye-to-eye with certain life viewpoints. Picoult is never afraid to tackle the controversy of our modern world, but she does it with grace, elegance, and respect. Oh, and the ending? So incredibly satisfying, like a cold drink of water in the desert.
If you’ve never read a “Jodi Book”, I recommend starting with My Sister’s Keeper. It’ll pull you in and leave you breathless. Eventually work your way through Change of Heart, 19 Minutes, then make your way to Sing You Home; you will not be disappointed!
6 down, 20 to go!