Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I SWEAR IT'S NOT TRASHY CHICK LIT

A review of Jodi Picoult's new novel, SING YOU HOME.

By Alex Nagorski
Singyouhome
“The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived; Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulters, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Author Jodi Picoult is no stranger to tackling moral dilemmas. Her seventeen novels are all centered around some sort of sociopolitical issues, each one stuffed with challenging questions that force readers to re-examine not only themselves -- but the world we inhabit.

Picoult’s latest offering, Sing You Home, takes a page from one of her best-known (and in my opinion, her finest) previous titles, My Sister’s Keeper. Both novels beg the question: who has the rights to our own bodies?

Sing You Home is a powerful and poignant tale about a lesbian couple, Zoe and Vanessa, who wish nothing more than to start a family. After a necessary hysterectomy due to endometrial cancer, Zoe is incapable of bearing children. However, three frozen embryos remain from the I.V.F. treatments she and her ex-husband Max had done. To the couple, the answer seems clear: what better way to have a baby than have Zoe be the biological mother while Vanessa carries it? 
 
Max, on the other hand, does not agree. After divorcing Zoe due to stress and pressures caused from the couple’s ten years of failed attempts at having children, Max relapsed in his sobrierty and turned back to heavy drinking. It wasn’t until a near-fatal car accident that he put down the bottle – and instead picked up a Bible. Becoming a born-again Christian and member of the extremist Eternal Glory Church, Max believes that the “lifestyle” his ex-wife has “chosen” is (as quoted in Leviticus) an “abomination.”

Rather than consenting for Zoe and Vanessa to attempt getting pregnant from the three remaining embryos, Max employs his own agenda and takes Zoe and Vanessa to court to gain custody of what he calls the “pre-born children”. While he himself has no intention to have children, he wishes to give the embryos to his brother and sister-in-law, a couple who also suffer from infertility problems -- and who also happen to be members of his congregation.

With both Zoe and Max having equal rights to the embryos, what happens when they file claims for their own biological makeup? And furthermore, what happens when religion and sexuality -- two things that are meant to be blind in the law’s eye – battle each other in a courtoom?

The result is a gripping, educational, unforgettable, and even inspirational story about everything from love to the healing powers of music to the flaws of fundementalism to parenthood. Following the typical Picoult formula of different chapters being narrated by various characters, a page-turning trial, and a few surprise twists at the end, Sing You Home will surely delight old fans while simultaneously turning on new ones.

As a homosexual man, I found Sing You Home to be an incredibly refreshing read in its honest depictions of what it means to be gay in today’s world. This is without a doubt the year’s most important novel. With this book, Picoult has crafted a contemporary tale of human rights that exemplifies what great literature is able to do: demand change. I couldn’t put Sing You Home down and I promise you won’t be able to either.

Sing You Home is out now via Atria Books.
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Jodi likes this review so you should too. 

Originally published on Crazytown Blog