Monday, April 11, 2011

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

From book flap:

Every life has a soundtrack.  All you have to do is listen.

Music has set the tone for most of Zoe Baxter's life.  There's the melody that reminds her of the summer she spent rubbing baby oil on her stomach in pursuit of the perfect tan.  A dance beat that makes her think of using a fake ID to slip into a nightclub.  A dirge that marked the years she spent trying to get pregnant.

For better or worse, music is the language of memory.  It is also the language of love.

In the aftermath of  a series of personal tragedies, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist.  When an unexpected friendship slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people - even those she loves and trusts most - don't want that to happen.

Sing You Home is about identity, love, marriage, and parenthood.  It's about people wanting to do the right thing for the greater good, even as they work to fulfill their own personal desires and dreams.  And it's about what happens when the outside world brutally calls into question the very thing closest to our hearts: family

My thoughts:

Typical Picoult.  Drama based story (topic ripped from headlines) that depends on a court room trial to lead us to the end.  And yet, knowing how formulaic her writing and story lines are, I once again picked up a Picoult book and read it. Will I ever learn? Now don't get me wrong, the book was good - it had solid writing and a good plot. And I did finish reading it in one day, so obviously I was immersed in the story.  However, its the type of book that I compare to beach/airport reads - the books you read, but forget about.  You know what I mean - fluff books.  Picoult's works are fluff reads to me, which sometimes, is just what I need.  And I needed a fluff book, since I wasn't so sure what I wanted to dive into next.

Now, I'm not going to summarize the story and go into any further detail as to how much or how little I liked it.  Instead I wanted to mention Picoult's beef with literary critics.  Apparently, when Franzen's book, Freedom, came out to glowing reviews, Picoult wasn't too happy about it.  She felt that his work was being taken seriously and was receiving oodles of attention, whilst her work was being ignored.  You see, Picoult's books are considered commercial fiction (it's often tagged as women's fiction) and as a result she doesn't receive any literary accolades.  She's financially successful because of her books and they do top bestseller lists, which means that they get read by a lot of people - yet, the literary critics don't exactly give her the kudos they would and have given to Franzen.  And the thing is, according to Picoult, her work focuses on the same themes that the so-called literary authors' works tend to focus on.  So, what is it exactly that separates her work from theirs? She considered it could be a gender issue, which wouldn't really surprise me considering how often women writers and their works are neglected by literary critics.  As someone who majored in both English and Women's Studies, my research has always focused on Chicana literature and Chicana feminism - two genres that are often ignored - so I can understand why Picoult would think her work was being left out (on the gender level).  However, after having read several of her books I can honestly say that it is not about her gender.  I love chick lit and women's lit and commercial fiction and all that jazz, but I don't get the same things from it that I would from a Jean Rhys or Sandra Cisneros novel.  And yes, I do know that chick lit does deal with issues similar to a Jean Rhys book, but the way that Rhys would tackle these issues is on another level compared to the way that Picoult would deal with them.  Honestly, I don't care much for Franzen's work (this is based on my dislike for The Corrections), but I can appreciate his talent as a writer - his work clearly showcases his penchant for storytelling.  As far as Picoult goes, well, her work is solid, but formulaic - it is the epitome of commercial fiction.  Its the type of writing that satisfies you when you need a quick read.  Its not the type of book that will impact you in such a way that it will alter your life.  Nor is it the type of book that blows you away because the writing is beyond good. Its the type of book that if you lend it to a friend and never get it back, you won't get upset about it, because you've already forgotten about the book.  What do you think? Am I right about Picoult's books? Or do you think Picoult's works should be considered literary fiction?  All I know is that after remembering Picoult's complaints about not being taken seriously as a literary writer leaves me wondering why she continues to produce book after book devoted to the same formula (headline news drama, court room trial, happy/unhappy ending).  Why doesn't Picoult try to produce quality instead of quantity?

Anyhow, I'm off to read something new.  Good riddance to Picoult (I must stop reading her work, its like a bad habit).


Steph said...

I haven't read anything by Picoult and to be honest I have no interest in doing so. I am sure that her topics are provocative and that her books are page-turners, but they just don't appeal to me. To me her writing seems flat and uninspired...

Wallace said...

Is this the book that Ellen DeGeneres just bought the movie rights for? I've only read one Piccoult... it was an early one (Plain Truth). I actually really liked it, but for some reason have never picked up another of her books. Strange.

Nadia said...

Steph, her writing is flat and uninspired, but sometimes I need something simple to just get me reading again. I can dig you not being interested in her work - sometimes I'm surprised I've even read it.

Wallace, not sure if this is the book Ellen bought. I haven't read Plain Truth, but I have read The Pact and The Tenth Circle and they weren't that great. I get why you didn't pick up another - probably because you knew it would be the same story, except with different characters. Oh well.

Lisa said...

"Typical Picoult." That's probably why I have never been able to make myself pick up one of her books. But there is a benefit to always knowing what you're going to get, particularly when you enjoy it.

Nadia said...

Lisa, that's true. Sometimes I want a book that will give me exactly what I'm in the mood for.

Netherland said...

I love Jodi's books but this one was not my favorite. If you want to read one of her good ones, start with My Sister's Keeper or House rules...way better reads!

Reliable Limousine in Seattle WA said...

This is a wonderful, captivating story that I had to MAKE myself put down last night to sleep, then picked it right back up with my coffee this morning and read to the very end, sad that it was over but with love in my heart from having read it. Please buy it and read it. Open your mind and your heart and enjoy. It's truly worth the time, I promise.