Sing You Home – Book Review

For the first five seconds after I wake up, the day is as crisp as a new dollar bill – spotless, full of possibility.

And then I remember.

That there is a lawsuit.

That there are three embryos.

That today, I am testifying.

That for the rest of my life, Vanessa and I will have to jump twice as high and run twice as fast to cover the same ground as a heterosexual couple. Love is never easy, but it seems that, for gay couples, it’s an obstacle course. – from Sing You Home –

Zoe Baxter wants nothing more in the world than to become a mother. She and her husband of nine years, Max, have been battling infertility for years and have turned to IVF in order to conceive a child. Finally, Zoe believes the child they have always wanted will be born – but, disaster strikes again. In the midst of grief, Max walks out and files for divorce, leaving Zoe depressed and alone. Zoe turns to her music for comfort. As a music therapist she understands the healing power of song. She also allows herself to let a friend inside her personal grief. Vanessa, a guidance counselor at the local high school, is not only there as a shoulder to cry on, but she makes Zoe’s life worth living again…and she introduces Zoe to a depressed, suicidal teenager named Lucy who needs music too. Gradually, Zoe and Vanessa fall in love and things get a whole lot more complicated. When Vanessa suggests they use the three frozen embryos from Zoe and Max’s last IVF to try to have a baby together, Zoe is ecstatic – she only needs Max’s permission. But, Max has turned to an evangelical Christian religion to soothe his grief…and the thought of allowing two lesbians to raise his children is horrifying.

Plucked from the headlines, Sing You Home is about the definition of family and marriage, and the rigid religious prohibitions against same sex unions. In signature Jodi Picoult style, the novel unfolds as a multi-perspective look at what it means to be gay in today’s world. Picoult takes a hard look at not only same sex unions, but at parenting, pro-choice, whether or not embryos are “pre-children” or property, nature vs. nurture, and the imposed morality of the Christian right.

There is a lot to be discussed and digested in Sing You Home. Although Picoult’s novel leans more to debunking the myths surrounding homosexuality, she attempts to balance the arguments on both sides by writing from multiple points of view. The reader is able to see the issues from the perspective of three characters: Zoe, Vanessa and Max. Max’s struggle to deal with his alcoholism and grief makes him susceptible to the religious fervor of evangelical dogma. Although he believes he is following the correct moral path, he begins to question many of the core beliefs of the church when the issues are personalized for him. His internal conflicts position him between the far right and the liberal left on the issues – a place that becomes more and more difficult for him as he is forced to choose sides.

I enjoy Picoult’s books – they are always “current,” taking contemporary social issues and weaving a story which is complex and engaging. Critics of Picoult often characterize her novels as having an “agenda,” and while there may be some truth to this, I see her work more as a place where thinking individuals can dissect an issue. Sing You Home would make an excellent Book Club choice.

Sing You Home comes with a CD of original songs written and sung by musician Ellen Wilber, and representing Zoe’s voice. Music therapy as a way to heal and touch people emotionally was an interesting aspect of the book.

Readers who have read and enjoyed previous Picoult novels will find Sing You Home a good representation of Picoult’s work. Conversational in style and covering a lot of controversial ground, the book is a good read which I can recommend.

FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

Join me on March 7, 2011 at 7:00PM (EST) for a Jodi Picoult Livestream interview sponsored by the Atria Literary Salon Series. Read more about this event here.

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  1. I’ve only read 2 or 3 of Picoult’s books and I enjoyed all of them, so I think I’d like this one too. I’m glad to see you did!

    • Wendy on March 5, 2011 at 17:57

    Kathy: If you have liked her previous books, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

  2. It has been such a long time since I read a book by this author but I cannot wait to read this one. It sounds like a great read and I’m looking forward to picking it up. Great review!

  3. Picoult is a hit or miss author for me. I either love her book or just barely feel like finishing it… I have read her in a while, though. Should remedy that!

    • Wendy on March 6, 2011 at 09:49

    Samantha: Thank you! It is very much Picoult’s typical style…so if you’ve liked her work in the past, you’ll most likely this one.

    Kailana: I’ve heard that a lot with this author! This one is VERY controversial…I’ve seen reviews that love it, and those that absolutely hated it.

  4. I am not a big fan of Picoult, but am glad that you enjoyed this book so much! I might have to reconsider her…

  5. I thought this was an excellent novel and it’s one of my favorites by Picoult. Definitely a lot to think about and one that would make for a great book club selection. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the cd, but I did enjoy learning about the vocation of a music therapist.

    As always, excellent review, Wendy!

    • Wendy on March 7, 2011 at 08:54

    Heather: This book is really representative of Picoult’s writing – so if you have not enjoyed her previous work, it would be hard for me to recommend this one to you.

    Les: I agree – the CD was just meh for me…all the songs sounded alike LOL! But, I did enjoy the book – and I think this is an important topic/theme for what is happening now in our country.

    • Sumayah on March 30, 2011 at 16:10

    I’ve read all of Jodi Picoult’s books, and really enjoyed (most of) them. I just purchased this book, and I’m liking it so far – I’m halfway through the second chapter. The subject of this book is LONG overdue in the United States; we pride ourselves on being open-minded and constantly advocate human rights and freedom, yet the majority of Americans seem to be hypocritical when it comes to gay rights. We have to understand that we can’t pick and choose to apply certain human rights and take away others to our liking; it’s all or nothing.

    I hope this book has been received well throughout the country. We desperately need some insight when it comes to this topic in particular.

    • Wendy on April 3, 2011 at 06:45

    Sumayah: I completely agree with your sentiments – the hatred toward people because of their sexual orientation is just astonishing – and seems to be worsening. I think Picoult wrote a wonderful, eye opening book…

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