Sing You Home

Friday, February 25, 2011

Title: Sing You Home
Author: Jodi Picoult
Pages: 480
Genre: Fiction
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.


christina said...

I've found, that although I enjoy JP, if I read her books in mass consumption, they all blend together. I had to take a break for her writing, and still haven't read last year's book!

Also, e-mail coming to you this weekend. :D

Zibilee said...

I know I am in the minority here, but I really dislike Picoult's books. I sort of feel like they are manipulative and they seem to all play the same tune. This book is not one I would read, but it's interesting to hear that from someone who generally likes her work, that this one was sort of a flop because of all the preaching and the striving for her characters to appear normal and acceptable. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. It was very appreciated!

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Now I'm really curious about this one...I have preordered it, so I should be getting it fairly soon...It will be interesting to see how I feel when I'm reading it.

Thanks for sharing.

nomadreader (Carrie) said...

I really didn't like this book. Her books have been hit or miss for me (and mostly miss, as I've disliked two of the last three), so I think I'm done with her. I've only read positive reviews of this one (except for mine), so it's nice to see I'm not alone in my disdain for how forced this novel felt. Ugh.

Booksnyc said...

The few Picoult books I have read I have really enjoyed but I do spread them out because they can run together for me otherwise. Not sure how I feel about the CD with the book . . .

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

You are not the first review I've read that has had mixed reviews. I've enjoyed almost all of Jodi Picoult books and would say she is one of my favorite, which I'm sure you already know.
She does have a style, and looks to write about 'controversial" subjects and I do applaud her for that. I have yet to really find any of her novels too pushy but I see what you are saying.

I have not read it yet. Great review, as alwasy Jenny!

Take care,

Tina said...

Loved your review Jenny- I agree with Zibilee- I think Picoult uses a lot of manipulative tactics in her novels...this one I truly think tried to demonize all Christians. I have no desire to hurt or bash gay people, but I dont my faith bashed and made fun of to advance an agenda. I actually recieved an email from the woman who wrote the music for this book telling me Jodis intention was not to bash Christians but to support Gay rights. I just didnt see it, I saw a lot of pointing the finger at only one group of thousands.

The1stdaughter said...

Oh, I think that you did a lot better job of illustrating how I felt about the book. I had such a hard time digesting the fact that you were either on one side or the other. You could either be gay and/or support gays or you could be Christian and be against them. Whereas I fall squarely in the middle, most likely a lot like you. It was just a difficult thing to read. I keep trying to step back and read it without feeling like she was "telling" me the story, but it was difficult.

I also had a hard time with some of her comparisons, like the gay vs. straight relationships you mentioned. Also, comparing the situation the character Vanessa illustrated where she had fallen in love with someone who was straight being like an abuse victim being in love with their abuser. As someone who's been in an abusive relationship and has also at one been in love with a guy who ended up being gay, I'd rather she related it to the later experience. An abusive situation is so much more than what she mentioned, I was a bit taken aback by it.

Anywho...enough of my carrying on. Excellent review! And thanks so much for stopping by mine!

Jenny said...

Christina: I can see where you would think that. I really do like many of her past books but this one definitely didn't do it for me. And, I don't have an e-mail yet! LOL ;)

Heather: I've heard people say that before and I could see where it came from but I didn't always agree until now!

Laurel: Hopefully you will still like it!

Carrie: I've actually seen a couple others (besides ours) with the same sort of sentiment!

Colleen: It was an interesting idea... different.

Michelle: I'll definitely be interested to hear what you think about this one!

Tina: I can appreciate that she didn't mean to do that but in using such stereotypical characters she sort of did do that, I agree. And yeah, Christians weren't painted so great in this.

1stdaughter: I forgot about that other comparison! I'm sure the author had no intention of any of those things that we've disliked but unfortunately they did come off sort of bad. =/

charmaine smith said...

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.

Charmaine Smith (Best Janitorial Service in Seattle WA)

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