Review: Sing You Home

Zoe and Max want nothing more than to have a baby. Or at least Zoe does.

After several miscarriages and a stillbirth, Max has had enough, but Zoe doesn’t want to give up on her dream. These irreconcilable differences result in their divorce. After the couple splits, Max moves in with his brother and sister-in-law, where he finds God and joins an Evangelical church, while battling with the alcoholism that he thought he’d gotten over.

Zoe, on the other hand, buries herself in her work as a music therapist until she finds somebody else she sees herself spending the rest of her life with. Much to her surprise, and that of everyone around her, that person is Vanessa–a guidance counselor at the school where Zoe sometimes works. Vanessa–a woman.

Zoe and Vanessa grow closer, move in together, and begin to plan a life together. That life includes children, and Zoe intends to use the frozen embryos she has left from her attempted pregnancies with Max. However, Max has other ideas; he does not believe that same-sex couples should have children, and wants to give the embryos to his brother and sister-in-law who are having trouble conceiving naturally. He believes that as heterosexual Christians they are better fit as parents.

Picoult’s newest novel, Sing You Home, asks readers to consider what it means to be a parent and a family. Is one kind of love better than another? Who gets to decide who should have children and who shouldn’t, especially when those children are still frozen embryos?

(Unlike Picoult’s other books, this one comes with a CD full of original music. I should note that I did not receive the music with the galley, so my review only reflects the text of the novel.)

If you’ve read any of Jodi Picoult’s books, you know her formula. She introduces her cast of characters, weaving in their back story, before pitting the main characters in opposition to each other. A controversial topic is introduced. The main characters go to trial to resolve said moral or ethical issue. There is a dramatic twist in the midst of the legal battle that changes everything. The court decision is made, and people generally find a way to reconcile their differences. The end. Sure, there are some discrepancies from book to book, but I’ve read every single one of Picoult’s novels and this is pretty much how they go.

And yet I love every single one. Every time, Picoult manages to write a story that consumes me, challenges my beliefs, makes me cry, and keeps me guessing. The twists and turns have become less twisty and turny over the years as I’ve gotten better at figuring out where she’s going with the story, but it doesn’t matter. I love her writing and the seamless integration of research. I love that she writes commercial fiction that makes me think. The characters on every side are always relatable and three-dimensional, even those with the most extreme views, and nothing is as much fun to explore as a gray area.

Sing You Home was no different. Zoe and Max’s story was every bit as enthralling as I anticipated. Picoult approached religion and gay marriage with tact and thoughtfulness, portraying each issue with the complexity they deserved. Her characters were also compelling; I particularly loved Zoe’s lawyer, a hilarious woman who cracks jokes at the opposing counsel every chance she gets, and Lucy, a depressed and withdrawn teen who challenges Zoe’s abilities as a musical therapist.

I know what to expect when I start one of Picoult’s novels, but part of that means expecting to lose myself in a wonderful book and to come out a little different on the other side.


3 Responses to "Review: Sing You Home"

  • I agree- there is a formula to her books, and I love them all. I think many prolific authors have a “formula” and somehow knowing that makes me want to read EVERY ONE of their books — assuming I liked the first one. It’s comforting – you know what to expect, unlike some authors who write totally different things in each novel and you love some of them and others are like “huh?”

    Great review. Thanks.

    1 Annette said this (January 23, 2011 at 12:56 PM)

  • I’ve seen her books floating around, but I’ve never read one. You make them sound better than brownies 😉 I really need to try one (book not brownie).

    2 Lindsi said this (January 24, 2011 at 2:46 AM)

    • Do yourself a favor and try one with a brownie. You’ll be in heaven.

      3 Melanie said this (January 24, 2011 at 7:56 AM)