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Sing You Home - Jodi Picoult

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Jodi Picoult / Hardcover / 448 Pages / Book is published 2011-04-12 by Hodder & Stoughton

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    8 Reviews
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      24.08.2013 22:30
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      Not Jodi Picoult's best work

      I have previously enjoyed the books I've read by Jodi Picoult - probably the most famous ones, My Sister's Keeper and The Pact. She has a very emotional and unique story telling style so when I came across Sing You Home in the library I didn't think twice about picking it up and taking it home to read.

      This book is even more unique in that it features a soundtrack. Every chapter is linked to a song and all you are supposed to do is use your smart phone to scan the bar code at the start of each one. Unfortunately for some reason, it didn't work for me - it looked like the web page didn't exist anymore, which is a shame. Apparently each song was specially composed for the book and was meant to be in line with the feelings of the main character at the time.

      The book centres around Zoe - a middle aged woman who has fertility problems. She wants a baby but unfortunately, her husband Max has fertility problems too. Eventually the pressure of having a baby proves too much for their marriage and they break up. Zoe's world falls apart but she is fortunate enough to meet someone else and fall in love again. Will she ever have a baby? Read the book to find out!

      This was a very interesting book to read and some of the content was unexpected. I liked Zoe as a central character but I feel like Jodi Picoult tried something with this book that I wasn't overly convinced by. The subject matter was somewhat unbelievable - it's difficult to say much more without giving the story away, but let's just say it wasn't the most conventional plot. I found myself quite often thinking that what was happening wasn't realistic.

      Having said that, I was determined to finish the book as it was intriguing and I wanted to get to the end. I think if you like Jodi Picoult, then you will like this book as it's in line with her usual style of writing! Each chapter was written using the perspective of a different character which can sometimes work, although I don't think it worked that well in this case as I found myself being a little confused at times.

      Thanks for reading

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        29.09.2012 19:15
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        A good read

        This is a review of the 2011 book "Sing you Home" by Jodi Picoult who is a very famous author with many books under her belt. I have read many Picoult books and would say I usually enjoy them but there has been the odd one that didn't tick my boxes.

        Different
        In Sing you Home, the book is interestingly divided into ten chapters each with a QR code or web link so you can listen to a song that has been written in conjunction with the book by Picolt's friend Ellen Wilber. The songs are designed to follow the emotions of Zoe, the main protagonist in the book. As Zoe works as a music therapist this fits in very well with the book.

        A bit about
        The book is about a same sex couple who try for ten years to have a baby and they have a long, harrowing and unsuccessful journey. The husband (Max) decides he's had enough and files for a divorce from his wife Zoe. The story then takes an unexpected turn and Zoe falls in love with another woman (Vanessa), a colleague at one of her workplaces. They marry and we fall into the Picoult typical genre which is a complex court case which really has no right or wrong outcome but is full of moral dilemmas. The dilemma here is who should have the three frozen embryos from Zoe and Max's wedding.

        Characters
        The chapters are narrated by some of the other characters, however Zoe is the main character. She is arty and thoughtful and works as a music therapist with children, the elderly and in hospitals. She cares about her clients yet remains professional at all times. Max is not a particularly likable character, a gardener by trade but really all he wants to do is surf. And drink. When he splits up with Zoe he nearly crashes his truck one night when drunk and he has a vision that makes him turn into a born again Christian with the encouragement of his brother and Sister in Law whom he is living with. Finally Vanessa is an openly gay character who has not had a lot of luck in her life to date with a difficult parental relationship and she works as a school counsellor. When she meets Zoe they are genuine friends to start off with and then it becomes more than that and they are lovers. They quickly marry (almost as soon as Zoe's divorce is final) and both agree on the same thing: they would like children and to have their own family. Zoe has health complications which result in her being unable to ever bear children so the frozen embryos become even more important to her.

        My thoughts
        I enjoyed reading this book, it was different and unlike anything I had read before. There was a lot of biblical content and I found some of this hard to read yet it was important to the storyline. The fact is that a lot of people are tolerant and supportive of same sex couples and marriage but there are people who also protest and can be quite nasty about it. The two groups come together in a spectacular clash in this book and there are a few other side lines thrown in to make the content more interesting.

        Final word
        I wouldn't say this was my favourite Picoult book but I read the book quickly and was interested to see how it would all pan out in the end. It is carefully and cleverly written and I did have a listen to some of the music tracks afterwards which were quite lovely and reflected the story well. It was an unusual concept but one that worked well in my opinion. I would recommend this book to other Picoult fans but beware the content may shock you, not that it is explicit but I think it could offend gay people who read it. I think a book that provokes this kind of reaction is not necessarily a bad thing though and I did feel myself thinking a bit about how difficult it can be for same sex couples to try and live a normal life when others are judging them.

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          21.07.2012 16:08
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          A thought provoking and thoughtful book.

          Jodi Picolt always writes about things that are a moral dilemma and this book is the same.
          I like those types of books because it makes you see things from both sides and you can sympathise with both sides too. It opens your eyes to situations and makes you a little more emphatic - so next time you get a cold fact story you don't just say 'i'd do that' or judge either party for the action they took.

          This story is about a couple who crave a child more than anything. They go through numerous miscarraiges and failed attempts at IVF. In the background they have serious financial problems, borrowing money and suffering businesses due to the constant pressure of trying to concieve. The pressure becomes too much when Zoe loses her last baby at nearly full term and the couple split.
          They both deal with things their own way. Max finds religion and Zoe falls in love again - with another woman. There are still embryos in storage - part of him and part of her. Situations develop and they both want them in their care and the battle commences. Who has more right to them, who will do a better job of raising a child - a same sex couple or a religious but single guy? This is where each person has their reasons for wanting them, not wanting the other to have them and what happens as a consequence of the battle for the claim.
          It truely is moving, emotional and a dilemma as you hear each side of the story develop and like a thriller where you spend the book trying to guess who done it, you will spend the book trying to decide who gets it.
          Another great read.

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          19.06.2012 12:47
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          I've read many Jodi Picoult books. Most have been very good, some have been non starters, one or two have had predicatable endings yet there's only one that has wasted what was a good story...

          Max and Zoe Baxter were once happily married but after years of attempting to have a baby and going through costly IVF treatments Max decides he's had enough. As the end of their marriage finally results in divorce they both take two very different paths from what they might of expected earlier on in their lives. As Zoe is comforted by her friend Vanessa which soon turns to love and Max turns back to drink, leading him to a more religious outlook they do not realise that these events will result in a battle of some unborn children. Three frozen embryos are lying untouched until Vanessa brings up that she could bear them. This needs Max's permission though and his new found religious mind has a problem with his prospective child growing up in a homosexual house rather than a christian one.

          My first thoughts towards this book was that it was a typical Picoult fiction. Resorting to a subject which quite a lot of people may not always think about. I have always liked how she writes from the characters point of view, not just one but all that are largely involved. We see how Max's mind works and why he'd think it would be better for a child to live in a 'normal' upbringing. What makes me take an instant dislike to him is not his alcoholism, his treatment of Zoe at the end of their relationship and somewhat thereafter. It is his decision on what he would do with the embryos should he win the court case. I think it gives a wrong impression of christian religion. Although I am not in anyway a religious person, I felt that Picoult concentrated more on the extreme side of it and doesn't focus that not all religious communities would feel this way.

          As the story progresses you get more and more attached to the female characters, even Liddy. Max's sister-in-law. There is not only the topic of a lesbian upbringing but also that of divorce, alcoholism, religion, jealousy and depression to consider. All of which contribute to a truely remarkable story. And then we come to the ending.

          I could easily of given this a 4 or 5 star rating but then Jodi Picoult completely wasted the story that she had writen by finishing it as she does. I mentioned at the beginning that sometimes the finales are slightly predictable. I have to admit that I wasn't sure where it was going. But then she ruins the whole of it with such disappointment. I wanted a remarkable ending to a thought provoking book. What I got was a weak attempt where no thought went into it at all.

          It was a dull and pointless finish.

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            05.05.2012 16:14
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            Worth reading but not my favourite

            I have read most of Jodi Picoult's books and I generally enjoy them as I find they grip me and make me want to spend a few hours getting stuck into the book. Her books are good quick reads. However, people often comment that they can be a bit formulaic and this is definitely true. Many of her books are narrated from different characters perspectives and they include some kind of social or moral issue, culminating in a court battle. Sing You Home is no different!

            The one different thing which stands out is the soundtrack which comes with the book. Each chapter has a QR code you can scan with your phone to get the soundtrack online. Alternatively if you don't want to use a smartphone you can just go to the website. This is to tie in with Zoe's job of music therapist. I did not actually listen to the soundtrack but I found it a nice idea.

            The storyline revolves around a couple, Max and Zoe Baxter, who have been desperately trying to have a baby but suffer infertility and have miscarriages and a still birth. The stress of this leads them to divorce. As they start to move on with their lives they go in very different directions, with Zoe falling in love again and marrying a woman, whereas Max gets more involved in the church. Eventually they think back to the frozen embryos at the clinic and there is a legal dispute about what should happen to them.

            I think that Jodi Picoult has dealt with the fertility issues in a sensitive way and I found it interesting to read about this, as you could clearly imagine the effect it was having on the couple. I liked that she also tackled this from a male point of view in Max's chapters.

            The same sex relationship of Zoe and her new partner Vanessa is also dealt with in a sensitive way. It is clear which side of the argument Jodi Picoult favours and in my opinion throughout the book she presents Zoe and Vanessa's case to get the embryos much more positively than Max's case. Max does not want the embryos for himself, but plans to give them to his brother to be raised in a Christian family. She presents Zoe and Vanessa's relationship in lots of detail and you feel sympathy for them. I think she does want to change some people's views on same sex relationships and make them realise they are just like everyone else. At the end of the book it was mentioned in the Q & A that Jodi Picoult's own son is gay so she has had some insight into how society reacts and judges on this issue.

            The only thing that slightly annoyed me about the portrayal of this relationship was that she says Zoe has suddenly become lesbian. I don't see why there was never any mention of the word bisexual in the whole book. Zoe loved her husband Max and then fell in love with Vanessa. She says she fell in love with the person, not the gender, and takes the attitude that if that means she now has to label herself a lesbian then she will. She makes it clear that sexuality is not black and white so I think bisexuality should at least have been mentioned.

            The point of view of the church seemed to be presented in a slightly over the top way, as some of the people on that side were overly scheming and just awful. Of course there are some Christians like that but I do think some Christians might be annoyed at their view being slightly twisted.

            Another irritation was the character of Zoe's lawyer, who seemed quite unprofessional and just annoying!

            Speaking of twists, you can often expect a big twist from Jodi Picoult but there was only a small one in this book and I did see it (or something similar) coming a mile off.

            On the whole, it was a good read and I enjoyed it but it is definitely not my favourite of Jodi Picoult's books.

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              19.09.2011 23:13
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              Superior story-telling with a musical addition.

              After recently reading Jodi Picoult's first novel recently printed in the UK for the first time, I was in need of reading something much newer from her and was thrilled when my local library got 'Sing You Home' in for me. I know that many people are finding her novels are starting to sound the same but this one is a real blinder of a book and I can't remember when I last enjoyed a book like this so much. In some ways I wished I could have got the soundtrack to go with this, but without knowing about it beforehand I really couldn't afford to buy the book in the hopes of enjoying the music as well. Something tells me that I might be disappointed and this would spoil the story for me, also I find it hard to listen to music while reading- it's an all or nothing read for me.

              Once again the story is full of all those elements that Picoult uses so well. There's the tragedy, the broken marriage, the unusual element that includes a court battle, but it's something that I don't tire of as long as it makes me feel and this book had me sobbing gently many times. I haven't yet read all her books but the ones I have seem to lead up to this one in many ways.

              The Story.

              How do you sum up a story like this, especially with two excellent reviews already on Dooyoo? Straight in the deep end seems the best.

              Zoe and Max Baxter have been trying for ten years to have a child, nearly all their married life, with no success. Both have medical problems that lead them to try IVF but after several miscarriages and one very traumatic stillbirth at twenty-eight weeks, it seems like this is going to be Zoe's last chance. For Max it has all been too much. He wants a divorce not because he has stopped loving his wife, but he has had enough of trying for a child and having his emotions rocked just once too often. His way to grieve is at the bottom of a bottle; Zoe is so devastated initially it appears she will not pull herself together this time. It takes her job as a music therapist and a new friendship with a teacher and counselor, Vanessa to get her life on track again.

              Soon she discovers her friendship with Vanessa has grown into love and when she finds out that Vanessa is gay, her initial reaction softens and eventually they become lovers and then partners. Meanwhile Max reaches rock bottom and is only saved from himself by his elder brother, Reid and his wife Liddy who take him in and get him involved with their church. Life seems to have got better for both until Zoe and Vanessa get married and Zoe remembers she still has three frozen embryo's in storage which she hopes Max will sign over to her and Vanessa so Vanessa can have their child. But Max has other ideas and both will go to court to try and gain full possession of the 'unborn children.'

              Issues and Dilemmas.

              Straight away I could see that all the elements of this story would read well and I couldn't put the book down, reading well into the evening to finish it. I think that along with reading books, reviewing them is the next best thing, especially when it's a book worth passing on to other's to read. Before that though I had to think carefully how I approached the review. I usually class my books as Plot-driven or character-driven, this has both and the ethical dilemma's brought up in the book added a third dimension. The gay issue didn't bother me, I'm very broad-minded and if I'm totally honest I can sometimes see why women are attracted to each other. However, although I'm not a practicing Christian I'm aware that this is a very controversial issue for the church and the American church in particular. Here in Britain we are lucky with our churches accepting homosexual couples and not pronouncing them as godless and evil because of sexuality. I can see some readers might find this personally distressing though and the last thing I would want is to upset someone by saying too much about that part of the book. The fact that the Christian preacher and lawyer try to make the court case a media circus is addressed in a way that might be seen as very harsh. Others might think the whole thing far too upsetting for both sides; I merely state it's a big part of the story.


              My stance on the issues of the right's of both partners who conceived the embryo's while they were married are convoluted. I come from a large and opinioned family though sadly both my parents and two of my siblings are dead. I was gifted from that by being able to see many sides of an argument and I did sometimes find the subject rather distressing, mainly as I felt like the 'unborn children' as one side call them and the 'property' as seen by another side was far too cold. I understand the need for contracts in fertility clinics but some of the wording and the way these terms were addressed were counterproductive. So the final outcome came, as something of a relief though I don't wish to spoil the plot.

              Characterization.

              With this book Picoult has shown her versatility knows no bounds. I felt sympathy for almost all the characters involved whether I agreed with them or not. I felt deep empathy for the characters of Zoe and Vanessa and the way they are dragged through the mud upset and angered me. At the same time I felt sorry for Max, though it could be said he did things for the wrong reasons I don't think men know how to grieve properly and in the end he has already suffered enough. His older brother Reid got right up my nose; I couldn't stand him and initially disliked his holier-than-thou wife.

              There are some wonderful characters in the women, which is what Picoult does well. Zoe's mum was wonderful and the lawyer, Angela came out with some wonderful anti-lawyer jokes. The counsel for the other side was suitably ghastly and led to many unsavory scenes. But for me the three main characters and the way they tell the story had me hooked. I wanted Zoe and Vanessa to win their case but I did feel for Max. The fact that Max is given a voice just about saved the book from being classed as one-sided, which would have been a disaster.

              I also loved the memories of family life and the bonds between mothers and daughters. The first page starts quite dramatically with Zoe witnessing her father's death when she is just seven years old. How it changes her and her mother is quite important to the story.

              The Concept of Music Therapy.

              I have to mention this as I'm completely in favour of this though I don't know much about it. Zoe has the best part of the book simply because she has lived through terrible inner pain but still uses her music to help burn's patients, children and old people, those dying and those who wish to die. In one part she is working with a troubled and suicidal teenager and I felt then I would have liked to hear the music that went with that chapter. The book is split this way, with ten tracks to accompany ten of the groups of chapters, which make up the book, a lovely idea and one that must be a first.

              Final Thoughts.

              I really recommend this whole-heartedly. There is so much love in the story that it spills over and leaves you with a warm feeling after the last page is turned. Put aside the many ideas about when and how the book was written. I understand that Picoult's son 'came out' when the book was written. My feelings on that are maybe it was more than a co-incidence, but when a writer can make such a difficult subject into a story of love, courage and loyalty, then what does it matter how it was inspired. Hat's off to Jodi Picoult, this is by far her best book yet.

              I understand this book is also dedicated to Ellen Wilbur who composed and played the music that goes with the book. The Lyrics are mainly by Jodi Picoult and if you look this up on Amazon you get a 45 second clip in which she promotes the book. Prices vary a great deal and are generally around £12.

              As always, thanks for reading and if you do get to read the book I look forward to your review.

              ©LisaFuller.2011.

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                21.06.2011 19:47
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                A riveting read from Jodi Picoult

                I am a huge fan of the American author, Jodi Picoult, and almost always find her books powerful and thought provoking especially as she is not afraid to tackle some quite contentious issues. This is definitely the case in her latest book, 'Sing You Home', where she explores the controversial theme of gay adoptions and parenting. That would be compelling enough on its own. However, the story becomes more riveting when you realise that it also involves a custody battle over unborn children - embryos currently frozen after IVF procedures.

                Max and Zoe were very happy when they first married and, like many couples, assumed they would have children in order to make their family complete. However, life often does not go to plan and after they realise that they both have fertility problems, they embark on IVF treatment. It's a heart-breaking route though and, after two miscarriages and a still birth, Max decides that enough is enough and he cannot put himself through it any more. This leads to the breakup of their marriage. After initially taking to drink, Max finds solace in the church, whereas Zoe is comforted by her friend Vanessa. Much to everyone's surprise, comfort turns to love and Zoe experiences feelings for Vanessa that she could never have predicted. This leads to their marriage and Zoe wishes that they could become a proper family. She remembers that there are still three frozen embryos from the last course of IVF, but in order to use them for her and Vanessa, she has to gain Max's permission. There follows a riveting legal battle of which it is virtually impossible to predict the outcome.

                Jodi Picoult has done it again with this book, 'Sing You Home', and has produced a wonderfully absorbing story. I was caught up from the very first page and could hardly bring myself to put the book now for wanting to see what would happen next. She has a knack of helping her readers see things from every point of view and this is achieved in her usual way of having different narrators for different chapters. Zoe, Vanessa and Max take turns to tell the story and this makes fascinating reading and often they see things quite differently from each other. In some of her other books, I have felt that she has had too many storytellers but in 'Sing You Home', the three different viewpoints work very well and I found it easy to keep track of whose voice I was listening to at any time.

                There is so much to think about in this novel many of which are indicative of twenty first century lives - civil unions, same sex adoptions, fertility treatments, divorce, therapy, prejudice. These are all explored sensitively and without any judgement. I am always in awe of the amount of research Jodi Picoult must undertake for her books and she certainly seems to have done her homework for this one too. As well as being thoroughly entertained by the book, I felt that I was learning things too especially about issues which I had not previously given much thought.

                Music therapy plays a strong part in the story as that is Zoe's work and she uses music to communicate with many patients, young and old. I found this fascinating to read about and it definitely made me want to find out more. Therefore, it is not completely surprising that there is a soundtrack to accompany the book. There are three different ways to access the music and information is provided at the start of the book. The soundtrack is intended to support Zoe's narration and to particularly demonstrate how she is feeling in different parts of the book. Having listened to the soundtrack, this adds a very unusual and enjoyable dimension to the experience.

                I really enjoyed 'Sing You Home' and, having read most of Jodi Picoult's books, rate it as one of her best. All the ingredients are there for a compelling read that will leave you guessing what the outcome will be until the very last page.

                The hardcover is available on Amazon for £12.49 (June 2011)

                This review has already appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk

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                  02.05.2011 16:32
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                  Another corker from Jodi!

                  Zoe Baxter has spent ten years trying to get pregnant, and just when she's about to get her heart's desire, tragedy destroys her world. In the aftermath of loss and divorce, she throws herself into her career as a music therapist. Working with Vanessa, she finds their relationship moving from business, to friendship, and then - to Zoe's surprise - blossoming into love. When Zoe allows herself to start thinking of children again, she remembers that there are still frozen embryos that she and her husband never used. But Max, having sought peace at the bottom of a bottle, has found redemption in an evangelical church, and Zoe needs his permission to take his unborn child . . .

                  I'm a huge fan of Jodi Picoult. Her novels make me question a lot of things and her books even teach me things I would otherwise have never have known of. For example, with her last book House Rules, I had no idea about Asperger's syndrome but reading that book was a real experience and eye-opener. When she decides what to base her novels on, she doesn't hold back and really gets to the heart of the topics of her novels. And while if you read all her novels in one go, you might find them formulaic, staggering them out means that they aren't formulaic at all. Sing You Home is one that intrigued me from the word go: I knew Jodi had a son who had recently come out as gay and all you seem to see in the news is same-sex couples fighting to have the same rights as heterosexual couples and although the book is a bit religious, I do believe it was necessary to present the story in the way it was presented and surprisingly, I found myself thoroughly absorbed in the novel.

                  I'm not entirely sure where to start with my review - do I start with the religion or with the same-sex relationship between Zoe and Vanessa. Actually, I'll start at the beginning. Sing You Home, at the beginning of the novel, introduces us to Zoe Baxter. Happily married to Max, even more happily pregnant, and happy in her job as a music therapist. Until during her baby shower, it all goes wrong for her and it ends sans baby and sans Max. Which brings us to Vanessa, who is a friend of Zoe's and as they spend more and more time together, they develop feelings for each other. Now I'm no expert on same-sex relationships, but I do firmly believe you love who you love. Who am I to tell someone that a woman loving a woman or a man loving a man is wrong? I felt Picoult handled the relationship between Zoe and Vanessa beautifully.

                  A lot has been levied at Jodi that she's written the book with an agenda, and I myself can see that. Her son is gay and is having to be gay in a world where same-sex marriage is continually slammed. Where same-sex marriage is only just becoming legal in all states in America, and I must admit, I am ignorant on whether same-sex couples can have kids, because it's not something I generally need to know. Does that make me a bad person for not knowing? No, I don't think so. The two different stories in the novel are a huge contrast to each other, you have Zoe and Vanessa, happy together and wanting to cement their love with a baby and then you have Max and his Church being 100% against Zoe's plans to have a baby. And while the religious stuff is something I am also ignorant about, it didn't feel patronising at all and I could see that the religion had to be in the novel because it's what the other side were basing their defence on - that because the bible says a same-sex couple can't be together or have kids, then that's how the law should see it, too.

                  As well as having a natural affinity for storytelling, Picoult is also really brilliant at giving us characters we care about. For the entire novel I was on Zoe and Vanessa's side. Zoe's infertility struggles and having carried a baby for so long for it to end in tragedy were heart-rending as was Vanessa's struggle to be accepted as a lesbian. Then of course there's their struggle against Max to try and get Zoe's frozen embryos so Vanessa can carry Zoe's child so they can have a family. All of that swirled together and I truly felt for Zoe and Vanessa. Any sympathy I might have had for Max, after all he had lost babies too, disappeared as the book progressed. Obviously as a born-again Christian, he thought he was doing the right thing, but to be honest, it just seemed as if he was being pushed by his Priest. And the lack of backbone rankled with me, because he never actually stood up to say what he wanted. He just repeated what he was told to say.

                  My favourite part of the novel, by far, was seeing Zoe's day job. She's a music therapist and I thought it was so beautiful that we got to see her in action, playing to people with Cancer, to people with rapidly declining health and to a girl desperate to die. I thought the musical backdrop was beautiful. As much as I do think Jodi wrote this novel for the reason, I was hugely impressed with it all the same. It's very much a relevant topic, something that's still ongoing as same-sex couples continually try to get the rights they deserve and it's very on point. I absolutely loved reading the novel, although I found Max's narratives a bit harder to take to as I just couldn't warm to him. The novel is accompanied by a soundtrack, which I haven't listened to (I can't read and listen to music at the same time) but I do think that's a brilliant touch. I didn't expect to enjoy Sing You Home as much as I did, but it says it all about Jodi Picoult abilities that the book touched me the way it did, despite my pre-conceived notions.

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