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January 26, 2017

Sing You Home

SingYouHomeSing You Home

By: Jodi Picoult


The award-winning author Jodi Picoult has become one of my favorite go-to writers when I need a thought-provoking good read. Picoult, 50, hales from Hanover New Hampshire and is a graduate of Princeton and Harvard; pretty impressive credentials! Before venturing into writing full-time, she worked as an editor and as a teacher of English and creative writing. Since publishing her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale in 1992, Picoult has penned 24 novels, often working on two books simultaneously! Her narratives tend to explore women’s issues, family, and relationships. Four of her books have spawned TV movies and one, My Sister’s Keeper, was produced for the big screen and is now available on DVD. Published in 2011, Picoult’s 18th novel, Sing You Home, is the topic of this review. This book comes with a music CD; its songs are intended to be experienced upon reading specific chapters. Jodi Picoult wrote the lyrics, which literally give voice to the protagonist who happens to be a musician and singer.

Zoe Baxter suffered the loss of her beloved father at the age of seven – an event she alone witnessed; this trauma has had a long-term effect on her psyche. As the book opens, she is blissfully happy and cautiously optimistic about finally becoming a parent herself. She and husband Max have been unable to conceive and successfully carry a baby to term during their nine-year marriage, though not for lack of trying. The pair have endured all the indignities and medical procedures required for in vitro fertilization (IVF) – not once but five times. Sadly, this pregnancy is also doomed, and almost results in Zoe’s own death. Zoe survives but her marriage does not and she finds herself picking up the pieces and attempting to move on with her life. Divorced at 40, she struggles to accept that motherhood is no longer in her future and to find a new focus.

Zoe has a love-hate relationship with her free-spirited mother, Dara Weeks, who works as a self-styled life coach. Dara is Zoe’s life-long supporter, defender and friend, to an extent that often drives Zoe to distraction. The mother-daughter pair share a devoted love and deep affection for one another; they also demonstrate the characteristic push & pull of such a close relationship.

A new friend enters Zoe’s life as she mourns the loss of her stillborn son and adjusts to post-divorce life. Zoe returns to her work as an independent music therapist and takes on Lucy, a teen, as a client. Lucy’s school counselor, Vanessa Shaw, has referred her to Zoe – after two attempts of suicide – as a last resort. Vanessa was a prior professional acquaintance of Zoe’s. The women’s burgeoning relationship will become a central focus of the novel and drive the storyline into unexpected territory.

Its three main characters take turns narrating the chapters of Sing You Home. The varying viewpoints of Zoe, Max, and Vanessa allow the reader to understand their perspectives first-hand as their-interpersonal conflicts escalate and eventually find resolution. The novel explores several dueling topics: Atheism vs. Evangelical Conservative Religion; Abortion vs. Life at Conception; Nature vs. Nurture relative to sexuality; Infertility and IVF. Picoult has plenty of food for thought here and she does a decent job of addressing them.

I was intrigued to learn more about Music Therapy as a profession and its varied applications and value to those suffering mental and physical afflictions. It takes a person with a strong sense of empathy to interject themselves into crisis situations to provide comfort and support.

One of the reasons that I enjoy reading Jodi Picoult is her careful attention to timely topics and controversies of the current day. When seen through the eyes of her relatable characters, these issues take on a more personal hue. It becomes much more difficult to make snap judgements about controversial issues when you realize the personal impact they can have on the lives of the individuals on both sides of the debate. Good fiction entertains the reader while broadening his/her worldview and enriching one’s perspective. I encourage you to pick up this or another of Picoult’s offerings; be prepared to challenge preconceived notions and gain a richer understanding of human nature.

Review By:  Pam Lamberger