Sunday, March 06, 2011

Layers of Love and Law: Jodi Picoult's SING YOU HOME

Jodi Picoult is now touring for her new book SING YOU HOME -- with a friend. Long-time collaborator Ellen Wilber, with whom Picoult worked on local musical productions, is traveling with her this time. We attended the first event for the book, on March 1 in Hanover, just "down the hill" from Picoult's home.

SING YOU HOME tackles a rapidly changing area of social structure, law, and medicine, as Zoe Baxter recovers from a broken heart -- a ten-year marriage without a live baby, followed by a divorce -- and discovers she can still love again. Her new beloved is another woman, and the two of them long to have children. Zoe and her ex-husband were enmeshed in in vitro fertilization, and three of the unused embryos are frozen, waiting for a chance to grow. Why not with Zoe and Vanessa?

For Zoe's husband Max, whose own recovery has led through alcohol abuse and into an evangelical Christian church, there are compelling reasons to refuse permission to Zoe for this. Wrestling with forms of love and loyalty, as well as with social standards, law, and even the definition of life, Picoult takes the three adults through powerful crises and changes.

Ellen Wilber
Readers of Picoult's earlier work -- like My Sister's Keeper, Nineteen Minutes, The Tenth Circle, Keeping Faith -- will find this familiar turf. What's new this time is the voice of Zoe Baxter: Picoult wrote lyrics for songs that evoke Baxter's situation, from wanting a baby to grief and more -- and her friend Ellen Wilber put them to music. A CD of the songs is bound into each copy of the hardcover book, Wilber is bringing her guitar on tour with Picoult, sharing the songs as they travel. "I really wanted this book to come with a CD of original music, because I really wanted the readers to hear the voice of someone who is going through this," Picoult explained.

Here's wishing you a Picoult event near you; check the list on her website. And if you can't get there in person, we've got a couple of books signed by both Picoult and Wilber available.

Answers to the most common questions that Picoult fields: (a) She writes five days per week, from 7:30 or 8 a.m. to 3:20; (b) her husband Tim ("chief of staff") makes it possible to weave this career with their family; (c) she doesn't write sequels but does miss her characters, so some of them reappear occasionally.

A poignant sidetrack to this book: While Picoult was writing its heartfelt exploration of what it means to be gay and loving in today's America, her son Kyle "came out" to her and Tim; she wasn't surprised, but is touched by the timing. "Your job as a mom is to love them best," she pronounces; the only part NOT okay is to say to your child, "You are not who I wanted you to be." That's not a problem for her and Tim -- they are clearly proud of all three of their children, and happy with who they are.

Next from Picoult: an exploration of dying with dignity, bundled with the lives of wolves, in her 2012 book Lone Wolf.

1 comment:

France said...

Sing You Home, the custody fight is not over a baby or child who has already been born, but over three fertilized embryos being kept in storage at the fertility clinic where Zoe Baxter and her ex-husband Max have spent much time, and thousands of dollars they could ill afford, in hopes of having a baby. The story is told by three viewpoint characters: Zoe and her ex-husband Max, who are the contesting parties for the embroyos, plus Vanessa, the school guidance counselor whose relationship with Zoe starts with friendship but develops into love and marriage.