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Picoult's latest fast-paced, compelling

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Sing You Home

By Jodi Picoult

Atria Books, 466 pages, $32

American commercial fiction star Jodi Picoult is no stranger to controversial topics, and in her latest novel she tackles a slew of them, including infertility, miscarriage, religion and homosexuality.

True to form, Picoult weaves a tale that is compelling and heartfelt. Told from three separate perspectives, it employs a structure will be familiar to her fans but a welcome change for new readers.

Picoult has penned 18 novels including, House Rules and My Sister's Keeper, the latter having been adapted into hit movie in 2009.

Sing You Home opens with 40-year-old Zoe, a singer who has undergone 10 years of fertility treatments with her husband, Max. After two miscarriages and five in-vitro cycles, she finally finds herself pregnant.

When disaster strikes and she loses the baby at 28 weeks, Zoe suddenly finds herself alone and left to pick up the pieces of her life.

Picoult writes on the topics of miscarriage and infertility with authority. She does a commendable job of capturing the intense and isolating emotions of these experiences. It's also clear she has done her homework with the detailed technical accounts of the drugs and treatments Zoe must endure.

Overall, Picoult's prose is simple and engaging, and her subject matter will keep you turning the pages. Fans of Picoult's work will undoubtedly enjoy this newest addition.

One of the most interesting aspects of the story is the point of view expressed by Max. Since childbirth and the process of pregnancy are so intimately tied with womanhood, it is refreshing to hear a male perspective on the struggle of infertility.

Max experiences feelings of inadequacy and the sense he has lost his manhood (his low sperm count being one of the reasons that the couple can't conceive) and Picoult depicts them eloquently.

After their marriage ends, Zoe and Max both find themselves adrift. Max turns to religion in the form of an extremely conservative church and Zoe meets a woman, Vanessa, with whom she falls in love.

Vanessa and Zoe eventually get married and want to try for a family. It's then that Zoe remembers the pair of frozen embryos left over from her last in-vitro procedure.

The plan is to have Vanessa carry the baby, but they soon discover that Max must give his consent in what happens to the embryos.

What ensues is a nasty court battle, where the wills, morals and beliefs of everyone involved are tested. At the heart of the conflict is actually the moral clash that often occurs when conservative religion meets homosexuality.

The action is fast-paced and harbours enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. And true to form, Picoult adds in her characteristic surprise ending.

A companion CD of acoustic country songs performed by Ellen Wilber, with lyrics written by Picoult herself, is included and is meant to be played along with the novel. While it doesn't detract from the story, it doesn't add much, either.

Nisha Tuli is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2011 J8

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