188 of 198 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2011
I am an avid Jodi reader but must admit I was a little nervous when I found out she was writing a book about such a controversial subject, the Gay community. I came from an extremely conservative family and grew up being `anti-gay'. The past few years I have become more neutral on the subject, not being passionate one way or the other about the subject. I just finished Sing You Home and I have a completely new perspective on the LGBT community. I never realized all of the battles they encounter and never realized the extreme measures people have taken to hold this community back from basic civil liberties. This book has made me realize the reality and prejudice that is occurring everyday in the world around me. Who would have thought that a fictional book could have such a dramatic impact on my outlook on life and humanity? Thank you Jodi for writing such an accurate and honest portrayal of the unfortunate injustice engrained in our society.
316 of 341 people found the following review helpful
Jodi Picoult is one author well known for writing about controversial issues. Her latest novel, Sing You Home, is sure to evoke strong emotions among some of her readers. The novel encompasses such diverse issues as, gay rights, evangelical Christian beliefs, in vitro fertilization, suicidal teens, divorce, discrimination and even music therapy. The essence of the story is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of three primary characters.
Zoe Baxter, has longed to be a mother. She's approaching 40 years of age, has been married to Max for nearly 10 years, and the couple has been unsuccessful at bringing a child of their own into the world. Zoe has had several miscarriages, and her last pregnancy resulted in a stillborn birth. After undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization), spending thousands of dollars, and experiencing one disappointment after another, Zoe still has not given up hope. Her husband Max, on the other hand, is through.
Max is a recovering alcoholic. He cannot endure the thought of more attempts at conception, and he wants out. Max files for divorce and he slowly slides back into drinking once again. When he is involved in an automobile crash while under the influence, he soon realizes he needs to change his life. He moves in with his brother Reid and his wife. Reid suggests that he come to their church, The Eternal Glory Church, and listen to their pastor, Clive Lincoln speak. The pastor happens to be a radical fundamentalist with an anti-gay agenda.
Meanwhile, Zoe throws her emotionally wounded self into her work as a Music Therapist, working with hard to reach individuals. She is asked by Vanessa, a school counselor, to work with a suicidal teen girl. Zoe agrees, and before long a relationship which began as colleagues then friends, develops into romantic love.
The couple, from Rhode Island, get married in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, since Rhode Island does not yet recognize such unions. The lesbian couple, very much in love, wish to complete their union by having a family. Zoe tells Vanessa about the fertilized embryos which she and Max have stored, and Vanessa is more than willing to try to become pregnant using these embryos so that the couple can experience parenthood.
Unfortunately when Zoe approaches Max, now born again Christian, he is vehemently opposed to the idea and a vicious court battle ensues, over who has rights to the embryos when a couple divorces.
MY THOUGHTS - Having read all of Picoult's novels, this one --her 18th, is probably her most controversial yet. The author presents a powerful story about what constitutes a family, and why committed gay couples should be seen no differently from straight couples when it comes to marriage and raising a family. It is a timely story told in voices that are real and heartfelt. The message is one of acceptance and tolerance, and it is certainly a story which will provide for lively discussion among readers and book clubs everywhere. Included with this book was a music cd which includes (10) soundtracks inspired by Zoe's work as a music therapist, and the songs are reflective of her feelings throughout the novel. The lyrics were written by Picoult, and the music was sung by Ellen Wilbur -- the music was lovely. I cannot recommend this book highly enough -- a must read.
117 of 130 people found the following review helpful
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.
197 of 247 people found the following review helpful
Music therapist Zoe Baxter and her husband Max, want desperately to have a child and all their failing attempts are starting to take a huge medical, financial and emotion toll on their marriage. When she suffers a heartbreaking stillbirth well into her last pregnancy, it is the final straw for the marriage and Max walks out of the house and out of their life together. Dealing with both these losses, very depressed, Zoe finds herself turned around by the friendship of a counselor at one of the schools she works at, a friendship that turns quickly (perhaps too quickly to be really believable) into a romance. Add to that the fact that her new love is a woman, Vanessa.
Quickly (maybe too quickly again) married in Massachusetts, the couple decides to get use the frozen embryos Zoe and Max have in storage to try and have a baby together, with Zoe's new spouse carrying the child. But when she goes to Max to get permission, she finds herself in the middle of a court case, being sued for custody.
While I admit I have not read a lot of Ms. Picoult books, I totally loved My Sister's Keeper...and not just for the amazing ending. So when I read that she had a new book coming out, and the topics sounded so interesting, so timely, I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy. I opened the package and started reading it immediately.
Rarely have I been so disappointed in a book. Not for the controversial subject matter, no, not at all!
On Zoe's side, the characters are almost saints, noble, good, selfless people. Even her lawyer, who will soon be getting a halo no doubt, is just such a nice person. How can you not agree with her? Zoe and Vanessa are so nice, how can we not want them to win?
On the ex-husband's side, everyone is evil and conniving, with totally selfish and nasty motivations. Max is a weak fool, with a reoccurring drinking problem, being used by others for their own, selfish, evil reasons. His lawyer is so loathsome that he only lacks a waxed mustache to twirl as he laughs a creepy laugh, to be complete. Yes, it is hard to portray people we really disagree with as decent people, with valid arguments..so much easier to paint them with a broad, ugly brush...and results in a book that could have been so much better.
I think this books starts by exploring some serious and timely topics that deserve better than the caricatures that the author descends into in the last half of the book. I don't think we get far in a discussion, as individuals or as a society, by just painting 'the other side', whatever that might be, as fools or idiots or evildoers. If you agree with the author's point of view and just want that reinforced, you may like this book and not see a problem. If you really want a fair and comprehensive exploration of some of this issues, something that makes you think, maybe makes you take another look at both sides, you will have to look elsewhere.
Rarely has a book disappointed me so much for what it could have been and was not, because the author decided to take the 'easy' way out.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2011
Sixteen years ago, I wrote a novel about a custody fight over the child of a lesbian couple after the birth mother was killed. (In a Family Way, available from Amazon as a paperback or Kindle e-book.) Her surviving partner and co-mother, one of three contestants for their baby, was a woman in her mid-forties who had lost custody of her older children solely because of her sexual orientation.
Since that time, great strides have been made toward achieving equal rights for Americans who are lesbian or gay, including the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the passage of same-sex marriage in six states plus the District of Columbia. Yet although much has changed, Jodi Picoult's gripping novel highlights how much bigotry and discrimination still exist. For in her very current novel, the mother's fitness to parent children is also challenged solely because she is a lesbian, married to another woman.
Over two hundred readers have already posted reviews, and it strikes me on skimming them that quite a few seem to regard the book in a positive or negative light depending on their attitudes toward homosexuality and equal rights for GLBT (Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual or Transgender) people. So I'll state my own views up-front: one of my two wonderful daughters is a lesbian, and my husband and I also have a gay nephew who, with his partner, is doing a first-rate job of parenting their adopted son. And I certainly believe that my daughter and nephew deserve equal rights!
Sing You Home is definitely an "issue book" in the proud tradition of older novels like Gentlemen's Agreement or Consenting Adults; as another reader put it, it shows a "political agenda" on Picoult's part. This is an agenda that Picoult forthrightly admits, as the proud mother of a beloved gay son, and to me it is a plus rather than a minus. Picoult does a great job of portraying Zoe and Vanessa as normal people, with all the virtues and flaws that other ordinary people have. And I was happy to see other readers say that the novel had opened their eyes to the roadblocks and injustices faced by GLBT people.
But readers familiar with Jodi Picoult's earlier novels know that this author never writes books that are simply tracts, but rather well-plotted, compelling reads. Her latest is no exception.
In Sing You Home, the custody fight is not over a baby or child who has already been born, but over three fertilized embryos being kept in storage at the fertility clinic where Zoe Baxter and her ex-husband Max have spent much time, and thousands of dollars they could ill afford, in hopes of having a baby. The story is told by three viewpoint characters: Zoe and her ex-husband Max, who are the contesting parties for the embroyos, plus Vanessa, the school guidance counselor whose relationship with Zoe starts with friendship but develops into love and marriage.
As far as their readiness to be parents, the cards would seem to be stacked against Max. Zoe is a graduate of a prestigious school of music, who uses her talents in the helping profession of music therapist. (I was not familiar with this field and found the description of her work moving and fascinating.) Max, on the other hand, is a recovering alcoholic, with a faltering landscaping business, who walks out on Zoe after her most recent pregnancy comes heartbreakingly close to a successful delivery. But Max has an ace up his sleeve in the fight for their embryos. He doesn't intend to parent the potential baby or babies himself; instead he has found a couple with impeccable Christian morality, who he and his lawyers are sure will trump the standing of a lesbian couple.
I found all three to be well-developed characters, though Max and Zoe interested me more than Vanessa, as both of them experienced profound changes in their self-identity during the course of the book. (Vanessa is most compelling in describing the pain of having to hide her true identity through much of her life.) Max is driven by a life-threatening accident to becoming a born-again Christian, and Zoe is stunned to realize that she is fully capable of falling in love with another woman. And though other readers have criticized Picoult for characterizing Vanessa and Zoe as nearly perfect, I didn't find them to be so.
A number of other readers have criticized Zoe's outspoken intolerance of religion, and I agree with them. Walking out on Christmas dinner because Max's brother and sister-in-law emphasized the religious aspects of the holiday was not only rude but hurtful to both her in-laws and Max. (I tend to doubt that Jodi Picoult meant this to reflect her own views on religion; as a fiction writer I know that characters reveal themselves to writers, warts and all, rather than being made up from whole cloth.)
But I also thought that Zoe's insistence on wanting to try to get pregnant again after the stillbirth -- even though her doctor strongly advised against it, saying another pregnancy would be life-threatening -- was a flaw on Zoe's part. Her demand that they go through another IVF cycle was the "straw" that prompted Max to leave her at such a traumatic time for her, but Zoe should have realized that his lapses back into drinking -- something she was aware of but ignored -- made him a poor source of emotional support.
Max is weak, though hardly evil, and his account of the peace and support he finds as a newly born-again Christian fascinated me. Unfortunately, despite the support and acceptance he finds, the pastor of his congregation is virulently anti-gay, and it is largely at his insistence that Max goes to court to deny custody of the stored embryos to Zoe.
I didn't feel, as some reviewers did, that the author condemned all Christians without distinction, but only the fundamentalist, right-wing churches that would demonize Jodi Picoult's child and mine for the orientation they were born with. The outlook of the congregation Max joins is closer to that of the Westboro Baptist Church, headed by Fred Phelps, which specializes in picketing funerals of fallen American service members, than to most mainstream congregations that I'm familiar with. And indeed, I have numerous friends who belong to accepting, welcoming Christian churches.
Phelps' group came to my mind, incidentally, because Jodi Picoult placed them as onlookers in the courtroom, rooting for Max and his conservative lawyers to win. (This was something that surprised me - not that Phelps and his congregation would be against a lesbian couple raising a child, but that there was a large audience sitting in court throughout the trial. When I did research for the courtroom scenes of In a Family Way, I asked to sit in on a family court custody hearing, but was told the courtroom was closed to all but parties involved in the case.)
It also surprised me that Picoult gave both Zoe and the woman Max announced his intention of donating the embryos to the same infertility problem of multiple miscarriages. Though it was acknowledged that the latter might not be able to carry the embryos to term should she become pregnant with one or more of them, it was brushed aside by her husband saying, "but maybe she can." I thought the conflict might have been stronger if she had an infertility issue that kept her from becoming pregnant to begin with, but not in carrying a baby to term.
And I also -- again, like other readers -- would have liked to know what happened to Lucy, though as she had only a year-and-a-half till her 18th birthday, she had probably left home for a better environment by the time of the epilog that ended the story six years later.
But these are minor quibbles. I couldn't stop turning pages -- a turn of phrase only, as I was actually clicking the Next Page button on my Kindle -- to see how this conflict would be resolved. And maybe it's only because the endings to my own books have the same kind of twists, but I loved the ending Picoult came up with.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Let me preface this by saying that if you are anti-gay, you will probably hate this novel. If you are an open-minded human, though, you will probably enjoy it.
I'm not going to re-hash the novel, since all the spoilers really and truly SPOIL the book for those who are reading these reviews and haven't read the book yet.
Just a few words:
The good stuff - a very timely topic, very controversial and very emotional. Picoult's writing is excellent. After finishing the book, I told my husband, "This would be a great movie!" For Picoult to include real-life groups such as that horrid Westboro Baptist Church group made the novel all the more real. We used to live in Topeka, KS and got to see that group "in action" and let me tell you, it was as BAD as Picoult shows in the novel. I realize that not every religious group that's anti-gay is THAT out of line, but trust me, if this was a true-life story, I'm sure that Phelps and his crew would be there in court causing trouble. So, kudos to Picoult for making the novel REAL.
The not so good stuff - had to wonder about Zoe and her love for Vanessa versus her love for her ex. During the nine years she was married to Max, did she have a clue that she was a lesbian? I mean, I believe in Love at First Sight, but it seemed to happen pretty quickly. Next, what happened to Lucy? I really cared for her! and they left me hanging...was she in love with Zoe? another girl?
So, yes, I loved the book. I was hanging on by a thread towards the end, not knowing what was going to happen, wanting to read FASTER so that I could get to the ending, but once I got there, didn't want it to stop.
30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2011
I have read most of Jodi Picoult's books, and I have loved every one of them until now. While I thought the topics were good and very relevant, I thought the first half of the book dragged on a bit, and the last half lacked the shocking twists and turns I normally associate with this author. I figured out the last twist chapters before it actually happened, and I have never done that with a Jodi Picoult book before.
I also felt she attacked Christians. I don't believe this was her intent, but I think she portrayed Christians as just one thing -- basically, homophobic freaks. Not all Christians act or believe the things that her characters from the Eternal Glory church do. I thought she went out of her way to make sure that homosexual stereotypes were avoided or addressed as not being true, but she did not do the same for Christians, and stereotyped Christians as narrow minded bigots.
Overall I was very disappointed with this book. I did give it 3 stars, but only because I thought the topics and premise of the book were good, but the author just did not do a good job of telling this story.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2011
I have been a fan of Picoult's work for a while now. I've read most of her books and have enjoyed them. This is the first big disappointment. If you are a Christian you will be offended to be grouped into the extreme religious group depicted here. She is so concerned with showing the plight of the gay community, that she puts Christians in their (the gays) place and persecutes them (the Christians). Just as you cannot stereotype gay people, blacks, Mexicans, rich or poor, you also cannot stereotype Christians. Not all Christians are extreme, as she depicts them in her book. There are groups like the ones she has here, but they are few. They just get all the press, which must be where she got her research. I have been a Christian for over 40 years and I have yet to meet a Christian like those in her book. It would have been a better and more believable book, had she done better research on what Christianity truly is. It is clear in this book, she has one agenda only, and it is not to show both sides, but only one. It's unfortunate that such a good author would use her great skills to write such a prejudicial and offensive book. She is so against Gay bashing that she becomes a Christian basher. If you are gay and hate Christians, you will love this book. It will confirm what you think you know, but don't. It will encourage you to join Ms. Picoult in doing to Christians what you believe we do to you. That is a shame.
24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2011
As a long-time fan of Jodi Picoult, I had been counting the days until the release of "Sing You Home." Now I find myself puzzled - and yes, a little heartbroken - over this lackluster effort, especially since the subject matter held such promise. I have come to expect several things when I open a book with Jodi's name on the cover ~ a fascinating controversial plotline, well-written prose and dialogue, and well-rounded, believable characters. Oh, and of course, a gripping, nail-biting trial. Unfortunately, other than the plotline, Sing Me Home contained none of those things.
The characters of Reid, Dara, the pastor and Max's lead attorney were stereotypical to the point of becoming caricatures. Yes, stereotypes usually exist for a reason ~ but with a subject matter as timely and as explosive as this one ~ from the embryos to the lesbian family to the radical born-again Christians ~ I did not expect an author as talented as Jodi Picoult to fall back on them, and find myself disappointed - and even a little betrayed - that she did so. I had expected to gain new insight into the different sides of these issues, since I always come away from her books thinking, examining my own feelings and beliefs, and looking at the world sometimes a little bit differently and sometimes a lot.
The main characters of Max and Vanessa were not believable to me. At least Max was vaguely two-dimensional, but not in a way that I could imagine him to be a real person. Vanessa was not real at all. As for Zoe... well, she was the most finely drawn character, loving and flawed in realistic ways. But because the other characters were not any of those things, I felt emotionally manipulated the entire time. The relationships were also not entirely believable - not the way Max left Zoe, not the way Zoe and Vanessa fell in love so quickly and were married and ready to start a family so quickly. Even the dynamic between Max and his brother/Max and his sister-in-law did not ring true. Part of this is because we were rushed so quickly from one person's POV to another. I know this "dancing POVs" drives many readers crazy in general, but it has never bothered me in Picoult's books because her transitions are generally smooth. Not the case here.
The worst part for me, however, was the trial ~ always the climax of Picoult's novels. Working in the legal transcription for over 30 years, I know enough not to expect any book (or TV show or movie, for that matter) to accurately depict a trial ~ not even the opening statements. If an author were truly realistic, the readers would be asleep within the first ten minutes. I understand that dramatic license needs to be taken in order to create a gripping read, so I am willing to suspend my disbelief... TO A CERTAIN POINT. But I couldn't do it here. The mixture of church and state was utterly ridiculous. No judge in the United States of America, no matter WHAT his/her personal beliefs were, would have allowed what took place, not from the first words of the opening arguments.
And then there's the ending... aah, the ending. It felt like Ms. Picoult had written herself into a corner and was unable to find her way out. She gave us a pat, unbelievable ending that raced by so quickly, I had to turn back a few pages to see if I had missed something. Then we are immediately thrust into an entirely new POV, six years into the future, to see what the outcome was. It was like being hit by an icy-cold tidal wave. There were no transitions. There was no closure. We never found out what happened to poor Lucy, the only character that was well-drawn and believable, the only character I actually cared about. We never found out what happened to Reid in the aftermath of all the decisions that were made. We never even found out if Zoe lost her job.
I recently reread "Second Glance" and was left amazed all over again by what an amazing writer Jodi Picoult truly is. I feel like the hours I spent reading "Sing You Home" were an utter and complete waste of my time ~ time I can never get back. And it hurts me to say that, because I have loved every single book Ms. Picoult has ever written, with the sole exception of "The Tenth Gate" ~ but even that book was better than this one.
If you haven't read Ms. Picoult's older titles, I highly recommend you spend your money on them instead of this book. And if you have read them, reread them... or buy something else entirely. I guess no one can hit it out of the park every time... but what a disservice Ms. Picoult has done with subject matters that need to be written about and read about.
49 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2011
I love this author. I have read every book and passed them around.
But not this one. This isn't the first time I felt she had researched a subject to death and maybe didn't smooth the facts with much elegance. This time it was glaring and she did a fairly crappy job of writing about issues surrounding infertility. It felt like it was pulled from a scientific journal. My biggest disappointment is the unexplored dissolution of Zoes marriage, her swift and largely unexplored love affair with a women and their marriage which seemed to happen too fast. None of the characters are well written. They are not given depth and fullness. It feels as if the author came up with another medical scenario, researched it and threw a lesbian relationship into the mix. If I were a gay woman, I would be annoyed. As a fan of this author, I am just so disappointed.