Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Book Review: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Sing You Home is the 18th novel by bestselling American author Jodi Picoult. One of the best things about this novel is the way in which Picoult takes serious subjects and uses witty dialogue that is laugh out loud funny to take the edge off in just the right places.

As the title suggests, music is one of the main elements of the novel. The protagonist of the story, Zoe Baxter, helps burn victims, a troubled teenager and patients with other physical and and mental ailments using music therapy. She sings and plays guitar to help them cope with a variety of complex issues.

The novel centers around Zoe, who is 40 years old, female and has suffered through several unsuccessful cycles of IVF, divorce, cancer, finding true love with a same sex partner, followed by a court battle over the custody of her frozen embryos and she must also go up against her ex-husband’s powerful church which preaches intolerance.

The narrators in the novel rotate, alternating between Zoe, Max (Zoe’s ex-husband) and Zoe’s new love and wife (in some states) Vanessa.

But the most interesting character whose new found beliefs affect all three narrators of the story is Max.

While Zoe and Vanessa embark on a journey that will hopefully allow them to start their own family, Max struggles to find himself and reconcile his love for his ex-wife, his old values and those that are forced upon him by his new church (who frown on same sex marriages) and brother and sister-in-law.

As one of three narrators, with three different points of view, Picoult allows Max to have a voice which conveys his vulnerability which in turn allows readers to sympathize with this character.

He is a recovering alcoholic, newly divorced, unemployed for the most part, and the Church and congregation offer him a safe haven from himself, forgiveness for his sins and a stable home with his brother and sister-in law.

They prey on his weaknesses, and it is frustrating as a reader to read the passages on how he begins to adopt their attitudes of intolerance.

In the end it is a forbidden love that saves him and allows him to finally think and act for himself again.
For anyone who has not yet read a Jodi Picoult novel, Sing You Home is an excellent place to start. It draws attention to important issues that affect many of us today and it is also told in an accessible, fast paced narrative and is really hard to put down. Sing You Home is a fantastic novel from a highly talented author and should be read by all.
(And for further reading, the author also has an excellent website, with book club questions, information on how she researched this novel and information on her other works, too.)

This review was first published on blogcritics.org. 

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