Best selling novelist Jodi Picoult has never been known to avoid controversy. She has used subjects such as teen suicide, violence in our schools, a sibling as a donor source, and malpractice suits as grist for her literary mill. Now she has written her possibly most controversial novel yet -- Sing You Home.
The controversy in Sing You Home evolves from the relationship between Zoe and Max. They are a devoted married couple who have difficulty in having a baby. They resort to a variety of schemes to make it possible for Zoe to carry a child full term but each time the process ends in failure.
After their third miscarriage Max decides he can not continue with either the fertility process or the marriage. He opts for divorce. Zoe is devastated but finds solace in her work as a musical therapist. She also begins to rely on her good friend Vanessa. Eventually this friendship turns into love and Zoe and Vanessa become a committed couple.
At this time they also decide to use the three frozen fertilized embryos Zoe and Max had saved. Zoe is sure Max will give permission but he doesn't. He has become involved with a very conservative church and they urge him to resist giving the embryos to Zoe and Vanessa. This sets off a legal battle to determine who gets custody of the embryos.
As you can imagine many issues are discussed in this story. There is the whole issue of Zoe and Vanessa being a gay couple and what their rights should be. The couple live in Rhode Island which doesn't recognize gay marriages so they have to go to Massachusetts to be wed. This means their legal rights in Rhode Island are up for question.
Then there is the issue of the conservative church and its philosophies. How much influence should it play in Max's decision concerning the embryos, and how involved should the church leaders be in his legal actions? Is Max a pawn of the church or his own man?
It is to Picoult's credit that most of these issues are handled with a fair balance. No one is perfect among the characters and no side is totally right or wrong. The reader definitely gets to see both sides of the issues and can understand why there could be an outcome to the story where either side wins.
Throughout the story music plays an important part in the various dramatic occurrences. To underline this a CD comes with the book. The CD contains a variety of original songs, one tied in to each chapter. This is a unique "add on" for a story and in this case it does enhance the tale.
Picoult's talent is most on display when she creates these characters. By the time the story has ended we know the main ones inside and out. We know their thoughts, their actions and their relationships. And when the story has ended they stick in our minds.
The weakness in the book is in the ending. It is too pretty and too pat. There were a variety of ways this story could have ended but this is not one of the best ones. It is amazing that a writer of such stature as Picoult took the easy way out.
Jodi Picoult is an amazingly talented writer and this story is one of her most affecting. But the "stumble" at the end takes away from its overall impact.
Sing You Home is published by Atria Books. It contains 466 pages and sells for $28.00.
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