Oh Jodi, what are you doing? This had all the markings of what could have been an interesting really good book. Unfortunately it was such a case of contradictions, choppy transitions and trying to do too much with one book. From the cover description, I thought I was going to read a book about a music therapist. That would have been a great book. In fact the best parts of this book were the music therapy parts.
What the cover doesn't tell you is the rest of what the book is about, it's pretty vague.
You don't know that it is also about struggles with pregnancy *warning* DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR TRYING TO BE PREGNANT - it will depress you and scare you* You do not know that this book is about a marriage falling apart (although that part is glossed over so much it really isn't). You do not know that this is a book about gay rights - which is funny because that is what most of the second half of the book focuses on.
Here are my problems with this book.
*SPOILERS BELOW - consider yourself warned*
1) the breakdown of Zoe and Max's marriage. There was so little time on this that you kinda go 'huh?' - this in itself , the infertility and the marriage difficulties would have been a good book. There was no mention of anything that really contributes to how it ended. Just one day he was frustrated and left, the next thing you know it's months later and they are divorcing. Come on, it's not that easy. This is a nine year marriage we are talking about.
2) The book makes such a point of you are born gay, yet, Zoe who was as straight as they come, only ever being involved with men and never having a same sex attraction before jumps into a same sex relationship and then decides to marry the woman 3 months later. That's a bit of a jump really. Why then does the book make a point of anyone who is ex-gay must be wrong. Why in the author's eyes is ex-gay not a possibility but ex-straight is? Shouldn't it be a possibility both ways?
3) This book also makes a point of fighting lesbian stereotypes (ie not all butch biker chicks) but the one male gay character is a stereotypical wedding planner? The Christian's are stereotypical gay-haters? Come on. If you are going to write a serious book that fights stereotypes then please fight all of them. Show an equal view on all sides.
4) How blatantly anti-Christian this book is. Dear Jodi Picoult: you have Christian readers in your fan-base. Why would you do this? The majority of Christians are not picketers and gay-bashers. They are not a brainwashed cult. Just as gays do not want a stereotype promoted, neither do the Christians. The Westboro Baptist Church though it labels itself as Christian, is NOT! Most Christian churches have denounced them and are not aligned with them. Why would you lump them in? Most pastors are not Southern larger than life in a big suit game show host types. Yet the only pastors you meet in this book are. I have never in my life heard a sermon like the one that was preached. I can not think of a single pastor (and I know many personally) that would publicly name anybody in a sermon and denounce them. Sunday morning services are a time of worship, to worship God. The purpose of a sermon is to expound upon the Word of the Lord. I have no idea where you would have gotten this idea. But it is just wrong and inaccurate at best. Also a new believer like Max would not be called upon like he was in this book to confront his ex-wife. That's just terrible plot right there. Standard pastoral practice would have counselled him along, not used him for any agenda.
5) The cutting the book back and forth from character to character did not work in this one. It was just to choppy. A more interesting book would have been just Zoe's perspective. Or maybe just Zoe and Max. It also made for poor character development.
6) Too many ideas in one book. This book could have been 5 really good books instead of just one mediocre one. Book One: Zoe and Max and their struggle in infertility and how it affected their marriage. Book Two: Zoe and her work as a music therapist - there is a book that hasn't been written yet that would be fascinating. Book Three: Zoe and Vanessa and their struggles as a lesbian couple in Rhode Island, a state that doesn't recognize gay marriage. Book Four: Max's alcoholism and recovery and how faith in Christ changed his life. Book Five: The court battles and legality regarding custody of frozen embryos.
All this being said, I have faith that Jodi Picoult can write a good book. She's done it before. My favorite of hers was 19 Minutes. That was excellent. I think what has happened is that she has become so well known that she is probably contractually obligated to produce a novel every year or so and her writing is suffering for it. I also think that because she is known to write on 'hot' topics she is trying to capture popular opinion instead of writing a really good book that takes all sides seriously. I hope her writing picks up again. She has talent, but it is being wasted with books that have so many problems like this one.