Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

I normally don’t read controversial books.  Hey, everybody knows by now that I like historical novels… great stories based on fact – from times in our past, particularly eras in which I was not alive.  So, it’s a little surprising that I chose to read another of Jodi Picoult’s books- her most recent entitled “Sing You Home”.  It tackled some pretty hot topics…. Gay rights.  Embryo adoption.  Maybe this book grabbed me because I have close family members who are currently very involved in embryo adoption.  Maybe I was just ready to try another of Ms Picoult’s novels.  To be perfectly honest, I’ve never really read one of her books.  I have listened to them on CD and have to say that they are some of the best narrations I’ve heard.  This book was no exception – in the narration department.  The voices that portrayed the main characters of Zoe, Max, & Vanessa were impeccable.  Zoe was a “music therapist” (I’ve never heard of one before) and this recording – all 14 CD’s – had music interspersed.  I’ll be upfront here.  I don’t listen to books to hear music.   When I want to listen to music, I listen to music.    What I’m saying I guess is that the funky, cheesy “songs” that accompanied the reading of the book added nothing to the story and other than about 15 seconds of each one, I skipped over them.

I have a pretty open mind.  I’ve seen a LOT since I started working in a big-city hospital several years ago.  I’ve seen many different definitions of the word, “family”.  I’ve seen 50+ year old women giving birth to twins via invitro fertilization – and egg donation – and sperm donation (why, WHY, WHY would one go to such lengths at that age to have more children?? Yes, these were not her first).  I’ve seen single homeless women who’ve given birth to natural triplets.  I’ve seen twenty-somethings who are super proud of the new baby they’ve given birth to while hubby is away in the service of our country…. So proud that they bring to the hospital their present “boyfriend” as well as “the father of the baby” (two different guys)… neither of which happened to be the husband who was like I said – away serving our country in the armed forces.  We’ve had plenty of babies with two moms, babies born to drug addicts, and babies born to “regular” families.  I think my perspective has broadened and the main thing is that I want the kids to be brought up in loving homes.  However, call me super old fashioned if you’d like, but ideally I still believe that the best environment for a child (key word: best) is to be with a mom and a dad who love each other.  Frankly, there are fewer and fewer homes like this these days.  Soooooooooooooooo….. back to the book……………

The main character, Zoe, had infertility issues.  She and Max were married and tried IVF to conceive a baby.  She miscarried (several times).  She and Max get ultra-stressed out over the whole thing and end up getting a divorce after 9 years of marriage.  Zoe is devastated by the divorce, the miscarriage, her subsequent hysterectomy, and ends up falling in love with a woman, Vanessa.  They get married.  Max is an alcoholic who spirals out of control and ends up living with his older brother and his wife.  They are members of a church which is portrayed in the book as a bunch of crazy Christian nut jobs.  This is my biggest criticism of this book.  I know there are some nutty churches out there (like the Westboro Baptist “Church” who are a tiny congregation of crazy activists and DO NOT represent the Christian faith IN THE LEAST).  What ticked me off is that the author doesn’t define this church as radical in any way, and allows the reader to assume this is simply how “Christians” behave.  As a Christian myself, I know this is not true.

Zoe and Max have three frozen embryos and, funny thing – they were not addressed in the divorce papers. After three months of marriage to Vanessa, Zoe decides she wants the embryos for Vanessa to gestate. She approaches Max for his consent and he decides that he wants the babies to have a chance at life with his “good Christian” brother and wife who are themselves infertile.  Hence the lawsuit begins.

This book was actually quite well written, and addressed so many subjects that are sensitive.  I won’t give away the ending here, you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.  Several times I was so angry at the way Christianity was portrayed, that I nearly stopped reading it.  Yet I hung in there and all I’ll say is that I wasn’t totally offended and up in arms about the ending.  It sure kept my attention over the 14 sound discs – and that’s saying something.  I’m pretty sure that this won’t be my last Jodi Picoult novel…. But I think I’m done with seriously controversial material for a while anyway.  My blood pressure can’t take it!!

The Aloha Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

In my last book review, I said something about being in a bit of a “reading rut” – albeit a GOOD rut.  Well, I’ve done it again, read (actually listened to) another book by Ms Chiaverini- the author of all the Elm Creek Quilt books.  This one was obviously set in Hawaii and since it was readily available at our local library, I gave it a try.  You know, part of the joy of this book was listening to the narrator/reader Christina Moore.  She is nothing short of excellent!  Another thing that made this book EXTRA enjoyable for me was that it was set in Maui.  She mentioned places like Lahaina, Kapalua, and even the Old Lahaina Luau!  Having been on that beautiful island of paradise just recently, I was instantly connected to this book.  It was all about one of the original Elm Creek Quilters who moved to Maui for 6 months to help a friend of hers start “Aloha Quilt Camp”.  The story wasn’t particularly riveting, but it was certainly enjoyable and made my hours behind the steering wheel of my car simply fly by!

On a similar note, I’ve now started reading two VERY LARGE books.  It may be a while until my next book review!  I’ve started “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett – a monster sized family saga book set in England, USA, and Europe prior to and during WWI.  This book grabbed me in the first 30 pages!  I understand it’s the first of a trilogy of novels that Follett has in mind.  The second big book is one I’m listening to, entitled “Sing You Home” by Jodi Picoult. The unabridged audio version has 14 CD’s and that will take me a while to finish.  This book has received mixed reviews and is chock full of plenty of controversial subjects, but it sounded interesting to me and I know that all of Ms Picoult’s audio books are ultra-professionally narrated.   So be looking for my humble opinion on those books in the future.