Title: Sing You Home
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria (Simon & Schuster)
Pub. Date: March 1, 2011
I've always loved Jodi Picoult's books and the controversies she explores, the discussions of morality she elicits. But I have to say, I didn't feel it with her latest. I don't want to give away too much, especially because most of the synopses and professional reviews I've read are strangely vague...
But basically, Sing You Home, starts off with a couple who has some infertility issues. The infertility issues in and of themselves don't really turn out to be a big aspect of this book (well sort of but not in the way I had expected) but do lead to the greater question of what constitutes a family. The other main issues explored are gay rights (well, really what I consider just human rights) and evangelicalism.
I had some problems with this book, though I do applaud Picoult for trying to use her latest book to educate on this topic. I already have my opinions on this topic in that I believe that what's really at stake are human rights, and it appalls me as much as any other human rights violations, the way some gay people are treated. However, even so, I felt almost offended at the way the information was presented by being put in my face. Rather, I more respect the media that incorporates gay couples into every day situations to show how "normal" they are rather than drone on about it. I think the people she was trying to make a point to would have not responded well to the droning on. In fact, Amanda recently mentioned this concept in her review of If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous (which I loved). Or think Modern Family which is one of my favorite shows! By treating gay couples just like any other couple, the writers create a normalcy that I know Picoult was trying to portray. Instead, what she did was devote the first half of the book to outright telling the reader how normal everything is that this couple does and if you don't think so, well you better believe it!!! In fact, she went so far as to explain how this couple's relationship was much better than the heterosexual one the one character was initially in for various reasons. Picoult compares the two to show how being in a straight relationship wasn't necessarily the best. But I ended up coming away from that feeling confused... was she just trying to portray the normalcy of gay relationships? Surely she wasn't trying to say that gay relationships are better than straight? Because she tried to relate why the relationship was better to it being two women who could better understand each other, when to me what was really being described was a basic, healthy relationship, pretty much just like the one I have with my husband. Not to mention, part of the reason this couple was living such a life of bliss was because they'd only been together for maybe a month!! Most relationships are in the "honeymoon" phase at this point. So if the point was to sway readers who don't already believe that all relationships, regardless of genders, are normal, then she probably failed because I imagine that anyone who disapproves would not have been swayed by this faulty argument.
So, I was already feeling frustrated at explicitly being told what to think. Then I realized, halfway through the book, that I wasn't sure what the typical "Picoultian" controversy was (hehe, see what I did there?) I mean, I got what issues she was illustrating, but at that point I felt maybe she was only going to describe every day life for this couple rather than moving on.
Well, the controversy finally arose and that part I did find very interesting and a great question to ask, but I just wish it had started maybe 100 pages earlier. And while I typically enjoy courtroom scenes, my one gripe with this second half of the book was that the characters were so obviously used for the purpose of spouting off research that our author wanted to give to our scientifically-minded readers. It's actually possible that this is true with all her books and that I only noticed it here because at that point I was searching for flaws...? I don't know.
In the end, I finally grew to connect to the characters and get into the story. I even really liked the way it ended. I love reading about non-traditional families and defining what a family truly is, so in that sense, this ended up being a good read. I just am sensitive to human rights issues and feel that they have to be handled so carefully for those who most need to be educated, and I fear that this may not be the book to do it.
I suppose I'd be remiss in leaving out the music aspect of this book. The main character, Zoe, works as a music therapist, and the book comes with a cd that is supposed to be Zoe singing. Each song is a chapter in the book. (Jodi Picoult wrote the lyrics). I only listened to about the first half and thought it was okay. The first song was catchy, I thought, and some of the rest sounded sort of "folksy" to me. But I thought adding a music cd to the book was an interesting concept.