Bookmarks Issue: 
Jodi Picoult

A-Sing You HomeIn her 18th novel, Jodi Picoult--known for her ripped-from-the-headlines novels about faith, adultery, sibling rivalry, teenage violence, mercy killing, you name it--addresses fertility, gay rights, same-sex marriage, and the legal ownership of embryos. A bonus: the book includes a companion CD of folk songs, one for each chapter. Recently reviewed: House Rules ( 3.5 of 5 Stars May/June 2010), Handle with Care ( 3.5 of 5 Stars May/June 2009).

The Story: Zoe Baxter, 40, and her husband, Max, have been trying to conceive for a decade. But when Zoe finally becomes pregnant, she miscarries, a tragedy that ends their already strained marriage. Max embraces the Christian right, while Zoe, a music therapist, finds herself attracted to Vanessa Shaw, a school counselor with whom she works. Zoe and Vanessa marry in Massachusetts, and they soon wish to use, for Vanessa, the remaining frozen embryos left over from Zoe and Max's attempts at in vitro fertilization. Max, of course, condemns his ex-wife's homosexuality and the possibility of the women raising a child--and, the novel being Picoult's, a dramatic court case ensues over the rights to the embryos.
Atria. 480 pages. $28. ISBN: 9781439102725

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Try as she might, Picoult cannot round out her characters on the Christian right. They are the bad guys here--as if Picoult did not quite trust her audience to spot the injustice and moral weakness of their arguments." Susan Salter Reynolds

Newsday 3.5 of 5 Stars
"I used to think I'd rather read a months-old People magazine than one of Picoult's endless chain of bestselling ‘women's' novels. But it turns out she's one of those rare ultracommercial authors, like Stephen King, who really can write." Marion Winik

USA Today 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Picoult (who, for those who want to know, is married to a man and has three children) may have an agenda, but she has written an immensely entertaining melodrama with crackerjack dialogue that kept me happily indoors for an entire weekend. Picoult knows how to tell a killer story, even if she has a Lifetime movie tendency to throw in groan-inducing curveballs to keep the plot churning. Who cares?" Jocelyn McClurg

Entertainment Weekly 3 of 5 Stars
"Picoult's characters often come off less like true human beings than ideological stand-ins, and her conflicts can feel overly simplified. But Sing deftly personalizes the political, delivering a larger message of tolerance that's difficult to fault." Leah Greenblatt

Oregonian 3 of 5 Stars
"[I]t takes a certain tolerance for Lifetime movies to enjoy her books. ... Her legion of fans and book-club readers who enjoy the chance to discuss current issues, however, will find her right on target." Peggy McMullen

Critical Summary

Picoult may embrace the sentimentality of, yes, Lifetime movies, but that tendency was not the major complaint about her latest novel. Although there is much to praise here--for the most part, a deft, timely, and entertaining plot--critics felt that Sing You Home, despite its attempt to examine all angles of complex issues, is partisan in its censure of Christian evangelicals. "Still," defended the Los Angeles Times, "the act of trying to understand the other side (much less create sympathetic characters) arises out of a very progressive impulse. And you have to admire Picoult's grace under pressure." But perhaps Sing You Home isn't the book for readers not on board with her agenda, as "Picoult is deft at her craft, knows right where she wants her readers to go, and isn't afraid to yank them there" (Oregonian).