‘Sing you Home’ is the latest book by Jodi Picoult. It begins with Zoe Baxter, a music therapist by profession and her husband Max Baxter eagerly awaiting the birth of child as Zoe is 28 weeks pregnant. More importantly, she is pregnant this far after a history of fertility problems for the couple leading them to resort to IVF. The IVF journey hasn’t been an easy one for the couple with Zoe miscarrying a few times. However, this time looks different and Zoe is quietly optimistic.
Until tragedy strikes.
Zoe loses her child yet again. And this time, Max decides he can’t go on with this, thus ending their marriage.
As Zoe tries to pick up the pieces of her life, a friendship between her and Vanessa Shaw, a school counsellor she meets through business develops. Slowly this friendship blossoms into love. Yes, same-sex love. To Zoe, her feelings for Vanessa (who she knows is lesbian) come as a surprise initially. But then she realises that it is perfect and meant to be. They get married in Massachusetts where same-sex marriage is legal unlike Rhode Island where they live.
In the mean time, Max has found his peace in the bottom of a bottle. A bottle of alcohol, that is. And then he is saved and finds God. He finds redemption in an evangelical church of which his brother Reid and sister-in-law Liddy are members. The pastor Clive Lincoln welcomes Max with open arms as does his brother.
When Max finds out about Zoe and her ‘lifestyle’, he is shocked. And thinks she is a sinner according to what the Bible says.
Zoe and Vanessa realise that they can have a child as Vanessa has a ‘functioning’ uterus and they have frozen embryos from Zoe and Max’s attempts. So when Zoe approaches Max in order to get his signed consent to give them the embryos, things take a turn for the worse.
Zoe and Vanessa are provided with a lawsuit thanks to Max and his church’s views. The church’s argument is that same-sex couples are an abomination and a child cannot be brought up appropriately in this environment. They also believe homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and individuals choosing that path need to be saved. And the church representatives will go through any means to ruin Zoe’s and Vanessa’s name for their cause.
Will Zoe ever be able to mother her own flesh and blood?
Will Max succumb to the pressures of the church and sabotage his ex-wife’s life?
Is homosexuality a choice?
What exactly is a traditional family?
All these and so many deeper questions about family, children and same-sex relationships are posed throughout the book. Picoult once again uses her style of narrating the story through the three main characters’ eyes — Zoe, Max and Vanessa. As the reader you are able to empathise with them all equally. Max’s views are not completely right-wing and hence, you can see where he is coming from too. And you are able to empathise with his confusion regarding how a woman he was married to for almost a decade is now married to someone of the same-sex. Picoult also explores the ups and downs of a same-sex relationship and sometimes the turmoil of coming out of the closet. Personally, I was able to relate to Vanessa the most, maybe because of her profession as a school counsellor. On the other hand, I wasn’t a big fan of Zoe’s career as a music therapist and if anything, that was the downside for me in the book. There is a client that Zoe works with and it is a bit disappointing to see the ‘therapy’ for the depressed and suicidal teenager. The characters that play the fanatical church members are portrayed very realistically because they do exist. And you are able to loathe them.
All in all, it’s a book true to Picoult’s style that dissects relationships and moral issues together. And it was probably a lot more personal to her because her oldest son came out of the closet. It was also different to read a book where the main protagonists are gay and not portrayed in a stereotypical or camp manner but rather just like any other couple. Hopefully, it will open up the narrow-minded people’s eyes. And yet, the reality probably is that there will still be those who will support the likes of Pastor Clive.
Until next time,
***This has been cross-posted at Bond with Books***