Title: Sing You Home
Author: Jodi Picoult
“You know someone’s right for you when the things they don’t have to say are even more important than the things they do.”
Sing You Home is a novel by Jodi Picoult which follows the story of Zoe Baxter; when we meet her, she is pregnant, and after a series of fertility issues, is elated at the prospect of being a mother. When she heartbreakingly loses the baby at 28 weeks and has to give birth to her dead son, it breaks her, and her husband Max, apart. Zoe is grieving, as her whole world has crashed down around her, and the prospect of her ever being a mother seems next to non-existent. Then suddenly, she meets Vanessa, the only person in the world who seems able to cheer her up. But while this new found relationship is the only thing keeping Zoe going, the people around her (including her ex-husband) seem hell-bent on making it difficult for them.
I’ve read two of Picoult’s other books and enjoyed those, so I was looking forward to reading this. At first, it took a little while to get into, I think as with her other books, they all seem to be about 50 pages too long. However, once I got into it, I enjoyed hearing Zoe’s story and really, really felt her pain as she experienced perhaps the most heart-breaking things a parent-to-be can ever go through. Picoult did a good job of making her’s and Max’s pain extremely palpable, and as a result, made their story empathetic.
Something that irritated me is that while Picoult seemed adamant to advocate for gay rights, throughout, it just felt very artificial. I hate to say it, but this book felt like Picoult’s opportunity to “box-tick” and as all her other novels (as far as I’m aware) are about hetero-relationships, it was really disappointing that she couldn’t write this book in a more elegant and meaningful way.
While this book seems to advocate for a lot of progressive ideas, a lot of dialogue and opinions from the characters seemed very old-fashioned. Zoe and Vanessa’s relationship, and the story in general, may be a good attempt at showing how difficult it can be for gay couples to do things heterosexual couples take for granted, Zoe and her mother’s opinions on gender stereotypes seemed lightyears away from the book’s feeling about gay rights. In one interaction, Zoe asks her mother how she would raise a boy even though she is a woman, to which her mother replies, amongst other things, “you don’t have to be a man to buy dinosaur toys and a baseball glove.” The thing is, if there’s a little bit of gender stereotyping in a book, as long as it’s not harmful, then it’s not the end of the world. But when a book is trying to be as progressive as this one is, it seems completely out of sync for other parts of it to be so archaic. Again reinforcing the idea that Picoult only wrote this to tick a box.
Also, I see what she was trying to do with the religious element of the book, but I also took issue with that. Without spoiling it, I’ll just say that the homophobic opinions of some Christians arise in this novel, and while I completely agree that it made sense as there are Christians in the world who are strongly opposed to LGBTQ+ people, not a single Christian in Picoult’s book was accepting of Zoe and Vanessa. To me it seemed a little like she was starting some kind of vendetta against religion. I’m not saying, let’s pretend that people like that don’t exist, but it would have been nice to see at least one Christian character who was supportive of them to reflect real Christians who are like that.
This book was almost enjoyable, but as I turned the last page, I just felt an overwhelming sense of frustration. It really had the opportunity to advocate for so much more than it did, and because of how Picoult chose to depict gender stereotypes, and the cliché way she wrote Zoe and Vanessa’s relationship, the book just fell a bit flat for me. There are so many fantastic books out there which give a platform to LGBTQ+ voices and are so important for doing so, but this book, in my opinion, was not one of them. I do like her writing, and I would perhaps read more of her books, but I hope that if any of her other books tackle issues as important as these, that she created something more meaningful and helpful than this.