Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult has become a beloved author among book club enthusiasts everywhere because of her ability to tackle multiple issues and intertwine them in a way that lets readers get a look at them all in a seamless and seemingly real way. Some readers feel there is a definite formula to her writing, and this is true if you read them all, but I would guess that no one cares. Their honesty and genuine readability carries them further than the story and you'll think about them far longer than the time it takes to read them.  Sing You Home has been much awaited by Picoult lovers because of the issues it presents, and it was a powerful and affirming read for me.

In most of Picoult's books, the story is told from a varying point of view. The first in Sing You Home is Zoe, the 40-year-old childless, married woman who will go through anything, including mulitple invitro procedures, in order to get pregnant. Max, her husband, is definitely committed to having a child also, but towards the end of this journey, it is more about doing it for Zoe than anything else. When their last pregnancy try ends in devastating disappointment, Max has had enough - not just of trying to have a baby, but he's apparently had enough of Zoe and married life as well. He doesn't even really try to discuss it with Zoe and is angry that she wants to try for another baby. So, he instead leaves her to move in with his married, and also childless, brother.

Thus Zoe has been abandoned in her life and is seeking nothing except some kind of peace in order to go on. Then enters Vanessa Shaw, a work colleague who then becomes the life partner that Max never was. Vanessa has always acknowledged that she is gay and is hesitant to tell Zoe even when her attraction is hard to deny. When Zoe, too, falls for Vanessa, they begin a life together which includes marriage (although they must go to a neighboring state to do so.) They both wish they could have children when it dawns on them that Zoe still has three frozen embryos at the clinic that could be theirs if Max will sign them over.

Thus begins the moral fight and debate that is inevitable, complicated by the fact that Max starts to go to his brother's ultra conservative Christian church. Although he finds that faith helps him through the rough times in his life, including his alchoholism, he finds himself fighting the two parts of his soul: the part that is led by his brother and sister-in-law's beliefs in a God who would never condone homosexual relationships, and another part that truly wants what is best for Zoe. Part of him does realize that it's selfish for him to deny these children to Zoe, who he knows would be a great mother, when he himself does not wish for any children, but he still struggles with the church and the minister's condemnation of the gay "lifestyle."

Although you can tell which side of this hot civil rights issue Picoult is on in this book, I think she still portrays both sides with a fairly unprejudicial eye. The characters of the minister and Max's lawyer are extra confrontational for effect, but their zeal and maliciousness, I believe since having some personal experience with similar issues myself, is spot on.

This book is wonderful because no matter what side of the issues you lie on, no matter if you like the writing style or not, it will make you think. It will make you question. It will give you a tiny peek through the window at what others may be thinking and feeling and living. I love books like this one because it asks me to test my prejudices and my beliefs, and I know that the act of questioning can only make me a better and stronger person. I hope it will do the same for you.