Monday, February 28, 2011

Review: Sing You Home

Sing You Home
By Jodi Picoult
Publication date: March 1, 2011

My review:

Zoe and Max have been struggling to have a baby for years and after several expensive IVF cycles and two miscarriages, Zoe finally seems to be doing well in her pregnancy. Then at her baby shower, Zoe tragically loses the baby. She wants to keep trying but Max is tired of it so he files for divorce. Zoe is devastated at the double blow and turns to her work as a music therapist for comfort. At the request of Vanessa, the local high school guidance counselor, Zoe agrees to help a troubled student by using music therapy. She and Vanessa become friends and surprisingly fall in love. Max in the meantime has turned from alcohol to God with the help of his older brother Reid, sister-in-law Liddy, and their pastor. Max is shocked when he finds out that Zoe is a lesbian and even more upset when she asks him for the use of the remaining frozen embryos so she and Vanessa can be parents. Max goes to his pastor for advice and soon the church has called in a lawyer to help Max fight for custody of the embryos to prevent Zoe and Vanessa from becoming parents.

Jodi Picoult is known for writing gripping books that tackle controversial or difficult subjects. She is equally known for showing that there are no easy answers and giving the reader multiple viewpoints so we can understand both sides of the argument. In traditional Picoult format, there are multiple voices telling the story and there is the usual court case. This time though she fails to present both sides of the situation equally. For one thing, Max is hardly a likeable character. A man who asks his wife for a divorce right after the loss of their child is not someone for whom the reader is likely to feel sympathy. His subsequent spiral into alcholism makes him further unlikeable. By the time the case is underway, there are few redeeming qualities to Max's character. He has let himself be swept up in a tide of religious hate even though it does not seem that he feels as strongly as his pastor or lawyer do. His one good quality is his wish to help Reid and Liddy although even that is muddled as the story goes on. The portrayal of other "Christians" in the book is also very negative and most are shown as hateful caricatures. Only Liddy seems to have any kind of sympathetic qualities and even she is presented as naive until towards the end of the book.

The characters that readers are clearly supposed to sympathize with are Zoe and Vanessa. Zoe is a caring and likeable protagonist. We feel for her from the very beginning of the book. The chapters written from Zoe's perspective are the best parts of the book. I was surprised that Zoe does not seem to feel confusion about her sudden feelings for Vanessa since she had never been attracted to women before. I did like that Picoult went on to portray the ups and downs of Zoe and Vanessa's marriage realistically instead of depicting it as perfect compared to Zoe and Max's marriage. I also liked how supportive Zoe's mom was. She is one of my favorite characters from the book because of how she loves her daughter unconditionally.  

While the subject is compelling and important, I was disappointed that instead of telling the story fairly it is so heavily one-sided. The ending also left me a little disappointed in a way by how it was brought about. Still, Sing You Home is a moving look at the meaning of family and relationships and it will make readers care deeply.  In a way I prefer it to some of her other recent novels because I was pulled into the story and wanted to know what the outcome would be. Fans of Picoult's other books will likely want to read this one too even with all the flaws. 

Note: I read an e-ARC of this book through Simon and Schuster's GalleyGrab program. This did not influence my review in any way and the opinions expressed are entirely my own. *The finished book comes with a music CD but I did not receive it for review.*


  1. Hmm. I usually quite enjoy Jodi Picoult's books, but I might not pick this one up. Since I left my home in Turkey to go to boarding school in England, I've become very sensitive to religious stereotyping. I'm sad to hear that it's present in this book- although fanaticism is never a good thing, it's important to respect peoples' views and at the very least give them fair representation.

  2. Great review, Christina.

    I used to be a big fan of Picoult's books, and I used to read everything she released. Then I found as though everything was becoming a little samey or just not dealing with subjects I was interested in. This doesn't sound like one of her best.

    My favourites of hers are The Pact and My Sister's Keeper. Amazing books!

  3. nice review! i had pretty similar opinions to you on the book--but i still enjoyed it :)


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