February 5, 2011

Sing You Home

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
2011 Atria Books
Finished 1/30/11
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
ARC - On sale March 1, 2011
FTC Disclosure: Received ARC via B&N

Publisher’s Blurb:

Zoe Baxter has spent ten years trying to get pregnant, and after multiple miscarriages and infertility issues, it looks like her dream is about to come true. But a terrible turn of events leads to a nightmare—one that tears apart her marriage to Max and all her future plans. In the aftermath, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. When an unexpected friendship slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock, and inevitable rage, some people, even those she loves and trusts most, don’t want that to happen.

Sing You Home is about religion, love, marriage, and parenthood. It’s about people wanting to do the right thing, even as they fulfill their own personal desires and dreams. And it’s about what happens when the outside world brutally calls into question the very thing closest to our hearts: family.

And, from the publisher’s letter to booksellers:

In her newest novel, Jodi explores what constitutes a “traditional family” in today’s day and age. Sing You Home addresses what it means to be gay in today’s world, and how reproductive science has outstripped the legal system. Are embryos people or property? What challenges do same-sex couples face when it comes to marriage and adoption? What happens when religion and sexual orientation—two issues that are supposed to be justice-blind—enter the courtroom?

Yep. Another controversial novel by Jodi Picoult. And, yes, my book is full of Post-It notes! I was immediately drawn into Zoe, Max and Vanessa’s story and found myself thinking about the friends and relatives I know who have experienced infertility issues, and who were finally able to get pregnant with the help of in vitro fertilization. I also found myself thinking about my gay friends and relatives who are raising families of their own. And about my Christian friends and relatives who might have issues with same-sex unions and with same-sex parenting. Once again, Picoult has given me a lot to ponder.

About music:

Every life has a soundtrack.

There is a tune that makes me think of the summer I spent rubbing baby oil on my stomach in pursuit of the perfect tan. There’s another that reminds me of tagging along with my father on Sunday mornings to pick up the New York Times. There’s the song that reminds me of using fake ID to get into a nightclub; and the one that brings back my cousin Isobel’s sweet sixteen, where I played Seven Minutes in Heaven with a boy whose breath smelled like tomato soup.

If you ask me, music is the language of memory.

On music therapy:

When I tell people I am a music therapist, they think it means I play guitar for people who are in the hospital—that I’m a performer. Actually, I’m more like a physical therapist, except instead of using treadmills and grab bars as tools, I use music. When I tell people that, they usually dismiss my job as some New Age BS.

In fact, it’s very scientific. In brain scans, music lights up the medial prefrontal cortex and triggers a memory that starts playing in your mind. All of a sudden you can see a place, a person, an incident. The strongest response to music—the ones that elicit vivid memories—cause the greatest activity on brain scans. It’s for this reason that stroke patients can access lyrics before they remember language, why Alzheimer’s patients can still remember songs from their youth.

On young love:

When I was growing up in the southern suburbs of Boston, I used to ride my banana bike with glitter streamers up and down the streets of my neighborhood, silently marking the homes of the girls I thought were pretty. At age six, I fully believed that Katie Whittaker, with her sunshine hair and constellations of freckles, would one day marry me and we’d live happily ever after.

I can’t really remember when I realized that wasn’t what all the other girls were thinking, and so I started saying along with the rest of the female second graders that I had a crush on Jared Tischbaum....

On coming out:

In October 1998, during my junior year of college, Matthew Shepard—a young, gay University of Wyoming student—was severely beaten and left for dead. I didn’t know Matthew Shepard. I wasn’t a political activist. But my boyfriend at the time and I got on a Greyhound bus and traveled to Laramie to participate in the candlelight vigil at the university. It was when I was surrounded by all those points of light that I could confess what I had been terrified to admit to myself: it could have been me. That I was, and always had been, gay.

And here’s the amazing thing: even after I said it out loud, the world did not stop turning.

I was still a college student majoring in education, with a 3.8 average. I still weighed 121 pounds and preferred chocolate to vanilla and sang with an a cappella group called Son of a Pitch. I swam at the school pool at least twice a week, and I was still much more likely to be found watching Cheers than getting wasted at a frat party. Admitting I was gay changed nothing about who I had been, or who I was going to be.

On tolerance and acceptance:

You can argue that it’s a different world now than the one when Matthew Shepard was killed, but there is a subtle difference between tolerance and acceptance. It’s the distance between moving into the cul-de-sac and having your next-door neighbor trust you to keep an eye on her preschool daughter for a few minutes while she runs out to the post office. It’s the chasm between being invited to a colleague’s wedding with your same-sex partner and being able to slow-dance without the other guests whispering.

I remember my mothering telling me that, when she was a little girl in Catholic school, the nuns used to hit her left hand every time she wrote with it. Nowadays, if a teacher did that, she’d probably be arrested for child abuse. The optimist in me wants to believe sexuality will eventually become like handwriting: there’s no right way or wrong way to do it. We’re all just wired differently.

It’s also worth noting that, when you meet someone, you never bother to ask if he’s right- or left-handed.

After all: does it really matter to anyone other than the person holding the pen?

Narrated from three points of view, Sing You Home is another entertaining page-turner by Picoult and one that is sure to spark lively, if not heated, discussions amongst book clubs. I can’t wait to hear what others have to say about this book.

If you’d like a chance to win my ARC, please leave a comment with your email address. I will draw a name on February 13th.

:: 2011 Sing You Home US appearances ::
This year’s tour for SING YOU HOME is going to be a multimedia experience! The book will include a CD of original music “by” the main character, Zoe, who is a music therapist - and that makes the reading experience that much more personal and intense as you listen to the songs that correspond to each chapter. But of course, Zoe didn’t really write that music. That was my friend Ellen Wilber, who wrote the music for my lyrics, and who sings on the CD as the voice of Zoe. When I go on book tour this year, Ellen will be coming along with her guitar, and in addition to hearing me do a reading and Q&A, you’ll get to listen to some live music! (From the author's website).
Go here for the current list of tour cities/stores, subject to change.


  1. I enjoy Picoult's work, so I'm looking forward to this. No need to enter me.

  2. This sounds like a good one!

  3. I've got this arc here to get to...your review makes me want to move it up in the pile. :)

  4. I have enjoyed every Picoult book I have read, this new one looks like another enjoyable read!

    ladybook21 at yahoo dot com

  5. I'm one of those rare people who can't stand Picoult's books. I like her writing, just not her stories, if that makes sense. I'd love to hear the music, though, just out of curiosity.

  6. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Yes, I'd love to read this one. I concur about music therapy being useful with Alzheimer's patients. My Dad's care center used it extensively. It's a very curious thing.

    Absolutely enter me. :-)

    (You've got my email.)

  7. Picoult is a hit or miss author with me. This sounds good, though. I think I will have to get to it at some point!

  8. I'm beyond thrilled to see how much you enjoyed this one. I was lucky to have received an ARC too...now I just need to find time to get it read!!

  9. I am so looking forward to this one; I've read all of her books (and enjoyed most of them).

  10. Hmmm...not sure if this particular book by Jodi is for me, but I do want to read the other latest one about the autistic kid and the murder. She always writes the most thought-provoking stuff, where you half wonder which side you're on. I'v switched from chapter to chapter (as in the one about the two daughters and the vital organ. Don't you love my memory? Didn't you write a post about Nora Ephron and memory once? :).

  11. Kathy - Hope you enjoy it as well as I did.

    Pam - Want me to enter you?

    Tammy - I can't wait to see what you think. I know a lot of people have a hard time with Picoult's endings. Not me. :)

    Elisabeth - Got your name in the hat!

    Nancy - I don't think you're in the minority. I hear a lot of comments from people who don't like her books (or the endings of her books). You know, I wasn't that impressed with the music, but that's just me. :)

    Kay - Your name's in the hat! :)

    Kailana - Do you want me to enter you in the giveaway?

    Staci - Yes!! Read it!!

    Bellezza - I'm not sure it's your cuppa either. I haven't read the other one that you're referring to. House Rules? Yes, her books are very thought-provoking.

    I do love your memory. It's very much like mine. Hmmm, I think I wrote a post about Ephron some time ago. Didn't I? ;)

  12. Diane - I still have a few that I haven't read yet. Would you like me to enter you in the giveaway?


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