The seemingly unstoppable Jodi Picoult delivers another heart-wrenching page-turner in Sing You Home, a stirring exploration of same-sex couples’ reproductive rights.
Picoult Falls ShortSing You HomeI’ve read every single novel written by Jodi Picoult. My Sister’s Keeper is a favorite, as are Nineteen Minutes and The Pact. Picoult has immense talent and a solid reputation for handling tough themes and developing fascinating, flawed characters.
That said, I struggled to finish Sing You Home.
In her own words, Picoult writes that this novel examines “what it means to be gay in today’s world, and how reproductive science has outstripped the legal system. Are embryos people or property? What challenges do same-sex couples face when it comes to marriage and adoption? What happens when religion and sexual orientation – two issues that are supposed to be justice-blind – enter the courtroom? And most importantly, what constitutes a “traditional family” in today’s day and age?”
The main character, Zoe, miscarries a baby in her 28th week of pregnancy. She and her husband Max are devastated, as they have endured years of fertility issues and are emotionally and financially drained. When Max decides he can’t handle any more, he leaves and divorces Zoe.
Max, an alcoholic surfer turned-landscaper, is unsympathetic at best. After he’s nearly killed, he becomes a born-again Christian, but still doesn’t manage to grow or learn from his mistakes. Meanwhile, Zoe reconnects with Vanessa, a high school guidance counselor, and throws herself into her work as a music therapist.
Zoe has an admirable passion for music and the way it can impact a person’s life, but is also quite naïve and blind to the way her own choices have shaped her life. She is desperate and obsessed with having her own child, and never really entertains other viable options – adoption, a surrogate, giving a home to a foster child in need, or remaining childless.
When Zoe falls in love with Vanessa, and they decide to have a child, a predictable struggle ensues over the three embryos that remain from Zoe and Max’s fertility efforts. Instead of Picoult wrapping up the novel with a twist or cleverly disguised finale, the ending is almost anti-climactic. It is too perfect, too easy, and too implausible.
I listened to this novel on my iPod, so that I could grasp the full experience of Jodi Pacolet’s work, complete with a soundtrack from “Zoe” (Ellen Wilber sings, Jodi Picoult wrote the lyrics). If anything, the songs were reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, but without the talent and impact.
I wanted Sing Me Home to be a thorough, sensitive, smart exploration of gay rights and religion. A portrait of people who learn and grow from their experiences. One in which people acquire some level of tolerance. A place from within seeds of acceptance can grow and flourish.
It didn’t happen.