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Home Reviews Book Reviews Jodi Picoult: Fearless author sheds light on society’s stickiest issues

Jodi Picoult: Fearless author sheds light on society’s stickiest issues

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Jodi Picoult may be the most fearless bestselling author of our time.

In “My Sister’s Keeper,” she told the story of Anna, who was conceived solely for the purpose of harvesting blood from her umbilical chord and her bone marrow so they could be used to save her older sister, Kate, who has leukemia.

Picoult went deep into the minds of those involved in a school shooting in “Nineteen Minutes.”

She shined a light on organized religion and the death penalty in “Change of Heart.”

Rather than sensationalizing her subject matter, Picoult explores all angles of the issues she tackles, leaving it up to her readers to decide their point of view.

In her latest book, “Sing You Home,” Picoult takes on the issue of same sex marriage and gay rights.

Music therapist Zoe Baxter and her landscaper husband, Max, tried for years to have a child. The emotional and financial strain of in vitro treatments and a devestating miscarriage destroy their marriage.

After the divorce, both characters hit bottom. Zoe goes catatonic. Max seeks comfort in a bottle.

A chance encounter with Vanessa Shaw, a colleague, leads to a much-needed friendship for Zoe, as she begins to put her life back together.

Max’s wealthy brother and sister-in-law, Reid and Liddy, let him live in their home. The couple faces issues of infertility, too.

They’re members of the Eternal Glory Church, led by charismatic preacher Clive Lincoln. They believe Max needs a good dose of God to counter his alcohol addiction.

As time passes, Zoe develops a physical attraction to Vanessa, a school counselor who has been “out of the closet” for a long time. The two fall in love and want to make their relationship permanent. Since their home state of Rhode Island doesn’t recognize same sex marriage, they travel to nearby Massachusetts for their nuptials.

After their marriage, Zoe and Vanessa decide to try to have a baby, using three frozen embryo left over from Zoe and Max’s final attempt to conceive. Zoe needs Max’s approval to use the eggs.

All hell breaks loose when Clive Lincoln finds out what Zoe wants.

He calls in lawyers and, before they know it, Max, Vanessa and Zoe’s lives are put under a microscope, sensationalized and played out in a Rhode Island courtroom.

After so much heartbreak, Zoe just wants to live happily ever after and raise a child with Vanessa. Having every moment of her life exposed in public is more than she ever expected, and is almost more than she can handle.

Vanessa knows what it’s like to live an alternative lifestyle. She loves Zoe unconditionally, but  there are secrets in her past she would rather not confront.

Max is confused by the radical reaction his church and family have to Zoe and Vanessa’s request. He fights the urge to pick up a bottle, with some days being a total loss. He’s also dealing with a secret that could have devastating consequences should it come to light.

In less accomplished hands, this storyline could have become preachy and petty.

Picoult, however, lets the action unfold by using each character’s point of view to drive the plot. Just when your mind is made up about the dilemma facing Zoe, Max and Vanessa, someone else’s voice chimes in and makes you think again.

This is the brilliance of Picoult. She gives her readers every side of the stickiest issues, all the while teaching us the importance of compassion and understanding for those who don’t believe as we do or live as we’ve been taught to live.

By tackling some of society’s hot button topics with such intelligence and insight, Jodi Picoult allows the rest of us a safe place to enter the dialogue. She gives equal weight to all sides of the issue, then steps aside to let her readers figure out where they stand.

Picoult’s stories stay with you long after the final page is turned. And, to me, that’s one of the most important earmarks of a great story, well told.

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Editor’s note: This book contains adult subject matter and may be offensive to some. A supplement CD with songs written for each chapter is included with the hardback.

 

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