Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

I never get hold of Jodi Picoults easily. There is a mile long waiting list for them, normally, so when I saw this one sitting in the ‘Just returned’ section, I grabbed it – quick, real quick.

Max and Zoe Baxter are about to have a baby. A much awaited for baby, who came after 5 cycles of IVF treatment, 2 miscarriages, and lots of heart break. Zoe is 28 weeks pregnant, at a baby shower organised for her, when she gets painful cramps, and is rushed to the hospital. They couldn’t find a heart beat for the baby, and she had to be induced to deliver her stillborn son. Heart-broken after the loss of the baby, all Zoe wants is to try for another baby, while all Max wants is a divorce. He has had enough.

The divorce left Zoe depressed, unhappy and with nothing to look forward to, while Max turns to alcohol. An alcoholic, he had stayed dry for a long time, but the loss of the baby and the end of their marriage pushed him over the edge. He discovers God, rather Church which saves him from self-destruction.

Zoe, in the meanwhile, is found to be suffering from cancer, and has had to undergo a hysterotomy and with that loses all hopes of having a baby, until she falls in love with Vanessa. They get married and realize that Zoe’s dream of becoming a mother can still come true. Zoe and Max still had three embryos from their last IVF cycle, and Vanessa could carry the baby, now that Zoe can’t.

Zoe gets in touch with Max to get his permission(both parents’ consent is required) to implant the embryos in Vanessa. To her shock and surprise, Max is a different person now. He has discovered God, a God who according to his church believes that same sex marriages are living in sin. So much so that they end up in court fighting for the right to use the embryo.

Sing You Home has so many aspects covered, Gay and Lesbian rights, the homophobia that is rampant in certain sections of society, the heartbreak that infertility brings.. It brings home to the reader, how difficult things can be to people going through such situations. How fair is it that a gay or a lesbian couple has to fight so hard for things that are considered natural for the rest of us – marriage, becoming parents, living a stigma free life, freedom to love and spend the rest of their life with the love of their life? Does having a different sexual orientation ban a person from these basic rights? Who defines normal?  what makes for a loving family? Can blind belief in religion(or rather interpretation of religion) distort our views?

The book also has a musical score with it. Zoe is a music therapist, and each chapter has a musical score we can listen to while reading – I did not read it with the music. I plan to buy the book, and read it again with the music. Picoult explains quite a bit about music therapy so that we, readers get an idea as to what it is all about.

Another wonderful book by Picoult. Her books never disappoint. I will certainly be reading it again. All the characters are well thought out and well etched out. Zoe’s wonderfully eccentric mother, Max’s conservative, super successful brother, the fanatical Pastor Clive..

Another book which will stay with you. Your heart breaks with Zoe’s, empathize with Vanessa’s insecurities and worries,  you understand how Max is caught between his faith and his doubts about right and wrong.. A book that I will definitely re-read. I would recommend it to anybody who likes Jodi Picoult books – another gem from her.

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Zohra by Zeenuth Futehally

March has been a good month for me – books-wise. I have loved all the books I read so far. Most of the time, I review only some of the books I read. This time, however, all the books so far have been review-worthy- which means that I am hard pressed for time. Sigh! But I can’t really complain – have been having so much fun reading them 🙂

Edited to add the book cover. Thanks Smita – I don’t know how I forgot, and did not even realize!

I came across Zohra, when I was searching through books on Amazon. It sounded very interesting, so I placed a request for it at the library.

Zohra was first published in 1950, and remarkably still remains very readable, even after more than 60 years of being written. Set in Hyderabad, when it was still a princely state, with Nawabs and their way of life still intact. Hyderabad has just become part of India, and the turbulent state of affairs of the state(and the country) is reflected in the people living in those times.

Zohra grew up in a Nawabi family, with her sister. Her mother and other women despaired of her interests in studying(mainly Persian poetry) because they feared that educated girls would never settle in domestic life. Although Zohra has hopes and aspirations of her own, she comes to realize that those are futile to hope for, given her background and resigns to her fate. She gets married to Bashir, an England educated young man, who comes to adore her, but fails to understand her.

She lives a normal married life, when her brother-in-law, Hamid returns from England. Despite all the years spent abroad, he seems to be the brother more comfortable on Indian soil. Both brothers clash on several issues like modes of political protest. Hamid, siding with Gandhian methods, while Bashir felt that the violent/aggressive methods would have been more effective. Hamid seems happy in home-spun Indian clothes, while Bashir insisted on wearing suits in sweltering Hyderabad.. In the middle of all this Zohra, trying to balance duty with passion. Married to the brother who loves her, and attracted to the brother who loves and understands her.

Zohra’s life, her sacrifices, and her choices make up the book. A touching story, a tragedy which just had to happen..

The story also gives an insight into the lives of the Nawabs in Hyderabad at that point in time. People who believed that their lifestyles would continue the way it had been for years. Only some like Hamid believed that change is at their doorstep. The book also reflects the conditions, confusions and mindsets of the Indian Muslims who decided that India was their land.

A beautifully written book, that cannot leave the reader untouched. A story that will stay with me for a while. A wonderful period read.

Love and Devotion by Erica James

Harriet Swift, a  32 year old computer programmer, living a happy, settled life in Oxford is jolted out of her comfort zone when her sister dies. A few years ago, Felicity, her sister had got her to promise that should anything happen to Felicity and her husband, Harriet would look after her children.

Harriet, is at a total loss. She has no maternal instincts, and has no clue how to handle two young children. To add to that she has to give her life, as she knew it, to relocate to where her parents live, to be able to look after her niece and nephew. She needs her parents to help with this task, but it isn’t easy on any one of them.

To add to it all, her parents seem to be having trouble in their relationship, and she discovers that her sister Felicity was not all that she seemed to be.

Will Hart, is a middle-aged divorced man, with two teenage daughters. He is also leading a well ordered life, and wants nothing to change it. He find out that his older daughter is pregnant, and he plays peace maker between his former wife and daughter, to ensure that his daughter is allowed to make her own decisions, without her mother forcing her into anything. Tragedy strikes and nothing is same again.

A sweet story, a book that leaves you feeling happy at the end. It makes you feel for the characters, wishing that everything could just turn out right. The way the little children face their loss is handled so beautifully, and it feels very real. Little Carrie’s bravado, and Joel’s insecurity, and Harriet’s handling of it all, is very well portrayed.

It is mainly about how people cope with loss, how some go strong, some find other avenues to run away from the grief.. And how things do fall back into place, eventually.

A nice read, a sweet story. Something to curl up and have a ‘comfort read’, if you know what I mean.

The Killing Place by Tess Gerritsen

You know the sort of book that you start reading at 9:00 pm, and is read, cover to cover by 9 in the morning? Because you just CANNOT put it down? Well, this is one of them.

Another crime thriller from Tess Gerritsen. Another one from the Jane Rizzoli-Maura Isles series. Another classic Gerritsen. which has all the ingredients that make it so so so un-put-downable.

Maura Isles is in Wyoming to attend a conference. She runs into an old college mate, and takes up his offer to go along with him, his teenage daughter and his friends for a ski break. Their vehicle gets stranded in deep snow, and they end up in a place called Kingdom Come, where there is no electricity, nor do they have cell phone signals to call out for help. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no way of calling out for help, while a snowstorm rages around them  – not the nicest thing to do on a break, is it?

Kingdom Come, they discover, is a private road with twelve identical houses, all of which have signs that people have abandoned them all of a sudden. Food left on the table, food being prepared, abandoned, and not a soul in sight.  Even the cars are just sitting in the garages. Everybody seems to have just disappeared into thin air.

Maura’s friends get worried, when she does not return as scheduled, and does not take calls. They land up in Wyoming in an effort to look for her. A crashed vehicle is found with four charred bodies trapped inside it. Is Maura one of them? Kingdom Come also happens to be the residence of a cult headed by Jeremiah Goode. And all this is linked to Rat, a sixteen year old boy on the run, who forages to survive, to escape from the authorities.

Everything that follows is pure Gerritsen. You hang on to every word, wondering what more is to come. It is gripping, full of tension, and scary! A good read – if you like crime fiction. And the ending comes as quite a surprise. I would certainly recommend it, for those who like this genre of books.

The Death of Mr Love by Indra Sinha

I keep a look out for Indian authors or authors from the Indian subcontinent. I don’t get as many books here in the library, as I would have liked, so I pick up whatever I do chance upon.

The Death of Mr Love is based on a real life incident, the Nanavati murder in the late 1950s. The blurb says.. The reverberations from the notorious Nanavati society murder in 1950s Bombay – the fatal consequence of an affair between an Indian playboy and his married English lover – were so great that the reached the offices of Prime Minister Nehru and irrevocably changed the face of the Indian justice system.

The author weaves a fictional tale using the backdrop of the murder case. Bhalu, in modern day London, meets his childhood friend Phoebe, whose mum, Sybil and Bhalu’s mother, Maya were great friends when they were both growing up in India. Bhalu’s mother had just passed away, and reading through her documents he comes across several documents which puzzles and interests him.

Meeting Phoebe results in more revelations and the two of them travel to India in search of the truth. They believe that there is a second unpunished crime which got hidden in the uproar of the murder case. A crime that destroyed 2 families, and exiled them to far-off England. A crime that still seems to be capable of creating an impact in Bhalu and Phoebe’s lives.

The story spans 5 decades, two countries and a bunch of very interesting characters. It feels to believable, so plausible, and makes you wonder – what if that were in case the fact.. The author also transports you to the places(Ambona, Bombay) with some wonderful descriptions. The story also traces the political situations in India, and how old friendships get changed, modified with time and circumstances.

As for the characters, I felt sorry for Bhalu, while Phoebe just evoked irritation in me. Somehow, despite the life that she had, she as a character, did not evoke much sympathy, probably because she remains quite a mysterious figure till the end. Other characters like Maya, Jula, Katy(Bhalu’s wife) are quite well fleshed out.

Would I recommend it? I certainly would. There are places where the narrative gets a little slow, and you almost want to give up, but all in all, it is an interesting book. I was fascinated by how well fact and fiction were interwoven. An interesting, but bulky book.