Recap: For Zoe Baxter, life is all about music and children. She’s a music therapist, who has wanted a baby with her husband, Max, for as long as she can remember. But the couple is plagued with infertility, and after in vitro fertilization, miscarriages and stillborn babies, Max decides he can’t take it anymore and divorces Zoe.
So begins Jodi Picoult’s most recent novel, which, as her novels do, revolves around controversial issues and family. Besides the infertility issues, the story follows Zoe and Max’s after the divorce. Zoe comes out of the closet and marries a woman. Max becomes a born-again Christian and moves in with his religious brother, Reid, and sister-in-law, Liddy.
The fact that Max and Zoe don’t warm to each other’s new lifestyles is no big deal. That is, until Zoe decides she wants to use the last few embryos she froze with Max’s sperm to have a child with her wife, Vanessa. Max has equal say, and as a newly religious man, he does not want to let Zoe raise their children in a homosexual home. What ensues is a trial that makes every character crazy, tired, and determined to get what they want.
Analysis: Jodi Picoult has a way of making interesting stories about families turn into dark, controversial tales that become legal issues. In this story, Picoult takes the debate of homosexual marriage and parenting head-on. She considers the legal and Biblical points of view. With Max, the reader is told that gay marriage is against the law of God, according to the Bible. According to Zoe, family is family, no matter how it’s composed.
She makes these points clear by sharing narrative duties among the characters — Zoe, Max, and Vanessa. It seems strange for Zoe to marry a woman after being married to a man for 9 years; it seems odd that Max — a recovering alcoholic — is born again. But as we read their stories through their eyes, it helps us understand why they’ve changed and how, no matter what happens, there’s still an underlying connection between Max and Zoe.
In Sing You Home, Picoult does an excellent job of taking us through this story of love, children, and the trial. The characters are described in depth, and the issues at hand take a number of turns throughout the story. Picoult also points out the hypocrisy and bureaucracy of the justice system. The one aspect where the story falls short is in its subplots and the way they’re wrapped up in the end– particularly one about Zoe and one of the girls she counsels. Though the ending feels a bit rushed and predictable, it’s more than satisfying.
MVP: Zoe’s wife, Vanessa. Each character in this book is flawed, and Vanessa is no exception. But she’s the most liberal and understanding. She is madly in love with Zoe, but lets Zoe determine the speed of the relationship, and it’s Vanessa who pushes for Zoe’s dream baby. Vanessa shows how strong true love can be in a book that proves love sometimes can conquer all.
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