By Jodi Picoult
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Being a fan of Jodi Picoult’s novels – and having always received positive feedback from friends whom I had recommended them to – I couldn’t wait to read her latest work, Sing You Home. Now that I have, I remember all that makes her a great writer: an elegant style, thorough research, tri-dimensional characters and, last but not least, a good story.
Always thought-provoking, Sing You Home is no exception.
At the beginning of the novel we meet Zoe and Max Baxter. They have been married for nine years and have spent the best part of them trying to conceive a baby; naturally at first and then through assisted conception methods. Zoe’s last miscarriage, however, marks a turning point for their relationship. Zoe wishes to undergo a new cycle of IVF treatment, while Max is unwilling to face further stress and disappointment. They divorce.
At this very delicate time in her life, Zoe - a professional music therapist - is asked to help with the case of a suicidal teenage girl by Vanessa, a high school counsellor. Vanessa quickly becomes a trusted friend. One that Zoe doesn’t seem able to spend a single day without. One that makes her laugh when she most needs it; one that is always there for her; one that she wants to spend the rest of her life with.
And that’s how Vanessa Shaw, former business acquaintance-cum-best friend, becomes Zoe’s wife in the best of happy endings.
The only thing that would make this beautiful couple even more perfect would be the addition of a child to their family. Suddenly, Zoe remembers the three frozen embryos left over from her last IVF cycle: having had a hysterectomy after complications arising from her last miscarriage, her only chance to becoming a biological mother is to have Vanessa carry her baby. All she needs is the authorization of her ex husband to use the embryos.
In the meantime, Max has been going through some radical transformation. Following a spiralling descent into the depths of alcoholism and an alcohol-induced car accident, Max decides to join his brother’s church and follow the leadership of Pastor Clive. The conservative Eternal Glory Church couldn’t be more set against the “deprivation” of the “homosexual lifestyle” and does all that it can to persuade Max that giving his consent to have his “pre-born children” raised by a lesbian couple would be a mistake.
All this leads the way to court, where Max and Zoe will be at the centre of a history-making legal battle for the custody of the frozen embryos.
I have tried to be brief but Sing You Home is such a richly structured novel that it is hard to not want to disclose more. Narrated from the alternating points of view of Zoe, Max and Vanessa, readers will have a full understanding of all the emotions and circumstances that make each character think and behave in a certain way. While reading this book I cheered, I felt contempt, I got angry, I cried. Picoult deals with a number of contemporary issues – from IVF to same-sex relationships – that are unlikely to leave you indifferent.
Ultimately, Sing You Home is a novel about passion, be it for the freedom of being who you are or for the belief that you can control who you are.