Synopsis from Goodreads:
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?
Review: I almost don’t know how to start this review. I am a Jodi Picoult fan girl through and through. I have been waiting for Sing You Home since I closed the covers of House Rules. Given those facts, you’ll probably be totally shocked when I say that I 100% loved this book. Or not shocked at all.
Where do I start with Sing You Home? Picoult’s writing, of course. When I read a Jodi Picoult novel, I encounter sentences I wish I had the brilliance to write myself. I get lost and tangled up in the people she creates and the scenarios she details. Picoult can break my heart into tiny pieces and then put me back together within a few pages. Her novels make me smile, they make me laugh, and often, they move me to the point of tears. Her writing is beautiful without being sappy; detailed without being overdone; masterful without being pretentious; amazing in a way I can’t even describe.
So, I obviously like her writing style, but what else? Let’s talk about her characters. Although this does go back to Picoult’s writing style, it never fails to amaze me how one person can write in so many voices. What do I mean? Picoult’s novels are general told by multiple narrators. In the case of Sing You Home, there are three primary narrators: Zoe Baxter, Max Baxter, and Vanessa Shaw. It’s incredible to me how one author can make each of those narrative voices so completely unique. Reading a chapter that is narrated by Zoe is a completely different experience than reading a chapter narrated by Vanessa. It provides so much more insight to the characters to read the experience as told by them, rather than be told how that character is feeling about a situation by a third person narrator.
What was so delightful and heartbreaking about Sing You Home was that I loved all the characters. Zoe is such an amazing character who wants nothing more in this world than to be a mother. Because I had such sympathy for Zoe, I wanted to dislike Max and view him as the “bad guy.” But no, that is not how Picoult constructed the novel. She wanted you to like Max as much as you liked Zoe because it creates internal conflict for the reader. I was totally and completely pulling for Zoe, rooting her on at every turn. But, I liked Max, too. I understood his side of the issue, his struggle with the decision to be made, and his struggles as a (albeit fictional) human. I don’t think I would have or could have liked Max as much as I did without “hearing” his voice. It would have been all too easy to designate him as the bad guy and not fully experience all sides of the struggle that is at the heart of this novel.
I really enjoyed Vanessa and Zoe’s mother Dara, as well. I think Vanessa, being so different from Zoe, help to round out an area of characterization that would have otherwise been missing. Zoe’s character presented a completely strong female, but Zoe was soft edges and beautiful music. Vanessa presented a strong female character that was quite as soft, in my opinion. She was by no means hard or masculine or unfeeling, she was simply a different kind of strong from Zoe. Her strength was more understated when compared to Zoe. You know Zoe is strong because of all she has endured to have a child. You learn more about her strength along the way, however, but you know her mettle up front because of her infertility battle. Vanessa revealed her strength in small doses. She revealed herself through what she had endured because of her sexual preference. She revealed herself in her tenacity and unwillingness to give up on what she believed in. And she revealed her strength and beauty as a character through her love for Zoe.
The plot was masterfully crafted. Picoult always picks a topic for her plot that is at the very pulse of modern culture. For this novel, Picoult actually used two hot button topics: the rights of the unborn and gay rights. While the rights of the unborn was a secondary plot device, Picoult still managed to shine a light on the sticky topic and make the reader think. On the front burner of the plot, was the rights of gays and lesbians. Whatever topic(s) Picoult is highlighting in her writing, she always manages to bring out both sides of the issue, another reason that multiple narrators are such an asset to her stories. It is clear that Picoult is on the side of equal rights for gays, her own opinion is never heavy-handed. I don’t ever feel preached to or that Picoult is trying to sway me to her thinking. She merely tells her story, from both sides of the argument, in a way that captures the attention of the reader and makes them think.
I thought the plot moved very quickly and was engrossing. The crumbling relationship between Max and Zoe, the unfolding of the relationship between Vanessa and Zoe, and then the struggle to be treated fairly no matter how or who one loves, was purely captivating. I simply could not put this book down. I was in a reading race with myself because I couldn’t consume Sing You Home quickly enough. I wanted more and more and more of the dynamic relationships, the heartbreak of loss, and the legal struggle for equality.
Sing You Home is Jodi Picoult’s finest novel since My Sister’s Keeper. I absolutely and highly recommend it to everyone. Fans of Picoult’s work will love this novel. Newcomers to her work – this novel is a fantastic place to start.