In March 2011, Jodi Picoult debuted her 18th book titled ‘Sing You Home.’ ‘Sing You Home’ is different from many of the books that Picoult has written because this time, she features a huge political issue as the main storyline in her book. Like many of her books, ‘Sing You Home’ is written through the perspective of the different characters throughout the book, and in this one, it comes from the three main characters; Zoe Baxter, Max Baxter, and Vanessa Shaw.
Zoe Baxter has been trying to have a baby with her husband, Max, for almost 10 years. Zoe, a music therapist, and Max, a landscaper, have put thousands of dollars into fertility treatments, but after a couple of miscarriages and one stillborn, the couple’s marriage cannot take it anymore and they file for divorce.
Zoe throws herself into her music therapy and Max moves in with his brother, Reid, who is an avid member of the New Life Church. Zoe is asked by her friend and the guidance counselor of a local school, to help a suicidal girl through Zoe’s music therapy. Zoe and Vanessa become good friends after Zoe’s divorce with Max. Eventually, the two fall in love with each other and they get married in the state of Massachusetts because where Vanessa and Zoe live, Rhode Island, it is not legal for same-sex couples to get married.
Max falls into a downward spiral with his out-of-control drinking problem. Reid introduces Max to Clive Lincoln, the Pastor of New Life Church. Lincoln is an avid preacher against homosexuality and it is the main political agenda for his church. Lincoln tries to persuade Max to accept Jesus Christ as his savior but Max refuses. When Max gets into a car accident and survives, that is when he accepts Jesus Christ and becomes an enthusiastic member of New Life Church.
What makes Picoult’s book so riveting is that not only is it controversial, but it is also personal to Picoult. Picoult had a friend in college who was gay.
“After college, I had a friend who, like me, was naturally, instinctually, and whole-heartedly attracted to boys. His name was Jeff. My roommate and I spent many Friday nights with Jeff and his partner Darryl, catching the latest movies and dissecting them over dinner afterward. Jeff was funny, smart, a technological whiz. In fact, the least interesting thing about him was that he happened to be gay,” said Picoult on her website.
Picoult’s son, Kyle, is also gay. Picoult found out when her son wrote a college essay about being gay.
“Learning that Kyle was gay didn’t change the way I felt about him. He was still the same incredible young man he’d been before I read that essay. I didn’t love him any less because he was gay; I couldn’t love him any more if he weren’t. In the aftermath, I saw him blossom, finally comfortable in his own skin, because he wasn’t living a lie anymore,” Picoult said.
It is not the lesbian storyline that makes this book controversial; it is the fight for LGBT rights in general. In ‘Sing You Home,’ Zoe remembers that she has three frozen embryos that were meant to be used for the future. Although Zoe cannot carry a baby to term, her partner, Vanessa, has a very good chance. When the two try and go through the procedure, they find out that they must get Max’s permission. This would be easy but Max does not agree with their “lifestyle choices,” and therefore is persuaded by Lincoln to take this to court and fight over the embryos so that Max can give them to his brother, Reid, and Reid’s wife, Liddy.
“Gay rights is not something most of us think about – because most of us happen to have been born straight. But imagine how you’d feel if you were told that it was unnatural to fall in love with someone of the opposite gender. If you weren’t allowed to get married. If you couldn’t adopt a child with your partner, or become a troop leader for the Boy Scouts,” Picoult said. “Imagine being a teenager who’s bullied because of your sexual orientation; or being told by your church that you are immoral. In America, this is the norm for millions of LGBTQ individuals.”
Picoult’s writing gets readers involved in the lives of these three main characters. It is not a one-sided story and that is what makes ‘Sing You Home’ a smart book. It shows what all three characters are feeling, their moral dilemmas, their frustration, their anger, their happiness, and their personal struggles. It is no surprise that when it first came out, ‘Sing You Home’ debuted at #1 on USA Today book list and New York Times Print & E-book list.
For more information on the book, Picoult’s research into the subject matter, and more of her persona story, visit http://www.jodipicoult.com/sing-you-home.html.
Angela Thomas is a fourth-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at AT683005@wcupa.edu.