Sing You Home: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

 Summary ~ Sing You Home:

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.

Where to start?  Throughout the reading of this book I felt that I would not be able to review it because a lot of the time it made me so mad.  Sing You Home is full of heated topics plucked from the society we live in today.  Gay Marriage, divorce, the Christian Right, IVF and legal rights.  I don’t know if Picoult tries to write from a neutral place but in this book I felt that her writing was on my side of the coin.  Let’s just say I was very happy with the ending and if you have read or are planning to read Sing You Home then you will know where I stand.  Some characters seem to be written with a heavy hand and others came across as gently written with an authors love.  Let me just add that while reading parts of the book where certain characters where spewing words I felt physically ill.

Picoult’s writing is strong in this book.  Her character development progresses beautifully, especially with the character named Max.  As a reader I felt frustrated, pissed off and amazed at what I was reading.  The story is constructed perfectly in my opinion.  Zoe, Vanessa, Liddy, Reid, Mama Dara and the legal teams they hire to do battle for them are all so strong and vivid that I forgot at times that I was reading a work of fiction.  In my opinion though Max was the deepest, most thoroughly written of all the characters.  Max is full of flaws that make him the most believable character but also at times the weakest character I’ve ever read.  The care that was taken when developing Max was obvious and appreciated by me.  Picoult could have written him completely different and that would have changed things for the story and the characters that live in it.  Thank goodness she wrote him just the way she did. 

If you like to read a book that makes your blood boil no matter where you stand morally, spiritually and ethically than pick up Sing You Home and read it.  If you shy away from hot topics in the media then I think you should read this book.  It will make you uncomfortable but remember it’s fiction.  If you like to learn things and come away from a reading experience feeling more knowledgeable about topics than pick up this book.  I don’t think you’ll regret it!

*Update ~ I don’t know why I was in such a rush to write/post my review as soon as I finished reading SING YOU HOME but in my haste I forgot to include my rating.  I didn’t realize I had forgotten to rate the book until I updated my reading status on Goodreads a moment ago!  I gave it four stars.

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

Extra! Extra! Fly Away Home Now In Paperback!

The fabulous, hilarious, charming and fun Jennifer Weiner is celebrating a big day this week.  Her novel FLY AWAY HOME is coming out in paperback Tuesday, April 26th! 

 

Sometimes all you can do is fly away home . . .

When Sylvie Serfer met Richard Woodruff in law school, she had wild curls, wide hips, and lots of opinions. Decades later, Sylvie has remade herself as the ideal politician’s wife—her hair dyed and straightened, her hippie-chick wardrobe replaced by tailored knit suits. At fifty-seven, she ruefully acknowledges that her job is staying twenty pounds thinner than she was in her twenties and tending to her husband, the senator.

Lizzie, the Woodruffs’ younger daughter, is at twenty-four a recovering addict, whose mantra HALT (Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) helps her keep her life under control. Still, trouble always seems to find her. Her older sister, Diana, an emergency room physician, has everything Lizzie failed to achieve—a husband, a young son, the perfect home—and yet she’s trapped in a loveless marriage. With temptation waiting in one of the ER’s exam rooms, she finds herself craving more.

After Richard’s extramarital affair makes headlines, the three women are drawn into the painful glare of the national spotlight. Once the press conference is over, each is forced to reconsider her life, who she is and who she is meant to be.

Written with an irresistible blend of heartbreak and hilarity, Fly Away Home is an unforgettable story of a mother and two daughters who after a lifetime of distance finally learn to find refuge in one another.

Be sure to check out Jennifer’s website HERE.  Also, I must recommend following her on Twitter because she is sooo funny!  Especially when The Bachelor/The Bachelorette are airing.

Water for Elephants ~ Sara Gruen

Summary ~Water for Elephants: A great, glorious, big-hearted novel set in a traveling circus touring the back blocks of America during the great depression of the early 1930s. It’s a story of love and hate, trains and circuses, dwarfs and fat ladies, horses and elephants – or, to be specific, one elephant, Rosie, star of the Benzini Bros Most Spectacular Show on Earth . . .

A second chance.  That’s what I gave this book years after buying it and unable to get into it.  With the film adaptation due out in theaters a couple of weeks from now I thought I should give it another try.  I am SOOOOO GLAD I DID!!!!  I don’t know what I wasn’t connecting with when I first cracked the spine in 2006 but I didn’t even remember the first quarter of the book I had read.  At least that was where the cover of the book was placed in the pages when I pulled it off the shelf on Monday.  This week went so unbelievably quickly because I was reading this book and enjoying every word. 

Water for Elephants took me into a world that I had never read about.  The old train-touring circus’ of the early 1900’s.  Also, I wasn’t too well-read in the topic of The Great Depression.  Gruen laid out these two worlds for me and combined them so beautifully.  Reading along I found myself imagining a very brown and tan America.  Colors seemed muted through the words and the occassional pop of color came from the circus preformers, whom the townsfolk across the land paid to see just for an escape from their lives.  Gruen’s characters were rich and vibrant thoughout.  Walter and Queenie became favorites of mine as well as Rosie, Jacob and Marlena.  August was written so perfectly that I am fearful of what the magnificent Christoph Waltz will do with him in the upcoming film.  Waltz may just top his performance in Inglourious Basterds (sp is correct!) as the cunning Col. Hans Landa which he won the Oscar for last year.  In the assisted living facility where 90 or 93 year old Jacob feels he’s wasting away, Nurse Rosemary was a beam of light not only for Jacob but for me.  Kindness towards Jacob was all I wished for him in that horrible place.

Jacob!  What a fabulous character to read.  90 (or is it 93?) year old Jacob was heartwrenching to read and wonderful at the same time.  Gruen’s feel for the geriatric character, and a man no less, was so great and breathtaking.  Young Jacob who’s feelings were so raw had my heart from the moment he walked out of the morge and into a world that took him farther than I believe he would have gone had his folks survived the car crash that took their lives.  His passion and sensitivity for animals of every size was touching.  His sense of responsibility for them all was crushing at times too.  In three short months he became a hero and caregiver for Boo Boo the orangutang, Rex the toothless lion, Rosie the fabulous elephant and all the animals in between. 

Reading was not always fun with this book.  I got extremely upset with the animal cruelty portrayed in this book and I wonder how the director of the film will manage these scenes.  I can’t imagine them not making it into the film so I am concerned.

Water for Elephants has such a simple yet extremely complicated plot that kept me flipping pages ever more quickly as it progressed.  I was so moved by some parts that I found myself reading them aloud to Hubby (not his favorite thing to do just before bed) and thinking about them much later.  Can I say “Coochie Tent” and you know what I’m referncing?  Whoa!

I am sure that most of you out there in the book blogging universe have read this book already.  I believe that books find you when you are ready and I guess I wasn’t ready in 2006.  I sure was ready this week!  Water for Elephants will be on my top 10 list for 2011 (at least) because the art of storytelling is alive and well within the books pages. 

{Rating ~ 5 out of 5}

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

Summary ~ The Sandalwood Tree: A sweeping novel that brings to life two love stories, ninety years apart, set against the rich backdrop of war-torn India. 

In 1947, American historian and veteran of WWII, Martin Mitchell, wins a Fulbright Fellowship to document the end of British rule in India. His wife, Evie, convinces him to take her and their young son along, hoping a shared adventure will mend their marriage, which has been strained by war.

But other places, other wars. Martin and Evie find themselves stranded in a colonial bungalow in the Himalayas due to violence surrounding the partition of India between Hindus and Muslims. In that house, hidden behind a brick wall, Evie discovers a packet of old letters, which tell a strange and compelling story of love and war involving two young Englishwomen who lived in the same house in 1857. 

Drawn to their story, Evie embarks on a mission to piece together her Victorian mystery. Her search leads her through the bazaars and temples of India as well as the dying society of the British Raj. Along the way, Martin’s dark secret is exposed, unleashing a new wedge between Evie and him. As India struggles toward Independence, Evie struggles to save her marriage, pursuing her Victorian ghosts for answers.

Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Calcutta and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love.

Where in the world do I start?  Well I guess first off I should say that I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!  The Sandalwood Tree is one of those (in my experience) rare novels that pull you in immediately and doesn’t let you go even after the last word is read.  Seriously!  I haven’t read a book as engrossing, epic, tender, scary, educating and magical since I read Ellen Baker’s Keeping the House in July 2008Elle Newmark’s novel, The Sandalwood Tree, provided all of those things for me to enjoy. 

The Sandalwood Tree is truly an epic journey for two “families” at opposite ends of a century and opposite ends of an era in India’s history;  The British Raj (rule).  The history lessons alone in this book made for an interesting and eye-opening experience.  I was constantly Googling words and events as I cam across them.  I wanted to learn the English meaning for Indian words and to research the history of India from 1856 to post WWII and the Partition.  Partition of British India was based on religious differences in the population.  The characters set among these tumultuous and dangerous times in India range from two women choosing to live as they please away from the rule of English society and the restrictions and expectations put on young women in the mid-1800’s to marry, have children and be silent, obedient housewives; to an American family sent to live in India during the passive protesting of Ghandi and Partition. 

First we meet Evie and her family who have relocated to Masoorla, India in the Himalayas from Chicago.  Her husband Martin fought for the U.S. in war-torn Europe and was deeply scarred by the sights he saw while liberating concentration camps.   These scars haunt him and create a deep divide in his and Evie’s marriage.  She hopes that by moving to India and standing behind her historian husband and his work that the mending and healing can finally begin.  Their son Billy is written so beautifully and makes a wonderful sidekick to his adventurous mother that I loved reading their story.  The heartbreaking relationship that is Evie and Martin was gripping and full of wonderful twists. 

After Evie discovers hidden letters from the mid-1800’s in the wall of her rented home in Masoorla we flash back almost one hundred years to the same house and meet Felicity and Adela.  They are best friends and become the only family they have through decisions and choices that leave them in a sense abandoned by disapproving family.  Their story is also a love story of sorts and also brings great things to the book.  Their India is so different yet so similar to Evie’s and Evie soon becomes obsessed by their story that unravels through the pages of Adele’s journal that she finds in the most unusual places. 

I truly LOVE this book! What a wonderful piece of historical fiction with strong female characters full of ambition and dreams. Elle Newmark’s writing is delicious and had me quickly turning pages to see what amazing description of India she had written next.

“But the morning tide took us away & eventually we came to Calcutta.  On the wharf, a rainbow-coloured crowd greeted us, a few staid Europeans in their pith helmets scattered here & there like common mushrooms in a field of exotic flowers.  The vibrancy of India makes England look like a faded watercolor, & my first glimpse of it made my heart leap, it’s gorgeousness & its great seething masses.”

Reading this book I could hear the sounds of the market place, smell the delicious and not so appealing smells of the land and its people and imagine a world so far from what I know that if it hadn’t been for Newmark’s sensational prose would still be a mystery to me. 

This book was simply, intricately and entirely fantastic!! It comes out in stores this Tuesday, April 5th.  If you are looking to be swept away and engulfed in a beautifully layered story that will hold your attention so intensely that you won’t want to put it down, then you should read The Sandalwood Tree!  Thank you so much to Grace and Atria Books for inviting me to participate in the release event of The Sandalwood Tree.  I enjoyed it immensely and can’t thank you enough for bringing this book into my life.

{Rating 5 out of 5}