“My dear boy, please don’t put a label on me – don’t make me a category before you get to know me!”
John Irving is a big name in literature, and his latest novel ‘In One Person’ is a testament to his skill as an author. The main character in this story is bisexual and the book is a fictional account of his coming of age and an exploration into the fragility of his self-discovery journey and the mysteries of identity. Irving has always been considered a provocative writer and this book is no exception. The book is very sexually explicit and frank, so if you are uncomfortable with that you might want to take a pass on this one. It is not a book for everyone. However, the book is an amazing literary achievement and not to be missed by Irving fans or anyone open to a compassionate exploration of a subject many people shy away from. Irving’s intent is not to disturb or unsettle, but to provide a window into a part of human experience and as usual, for this author, to produce a beautifully well written work of art.
Though the book is fiction, it reads like a memoir so it makes sense that it would be candid. As a fictional memoir it has the power of a personal story free from judgement and politics. The latter part of the book is an empathic account of the unfolding of the AIDS epidemic in North America during the 80’s. All of the characters, the tragedy, the humour, and the insights in this book will stay with me for a very long time.
A story about whom we love
Who we are
And how we define a family
Jodi Picoult has done it again. She takes an issue, looks at it from a number of different angles, and sensitively tells a story that is captivating and educational. The usual Picoult formula is there, but not unpleasantly so, with different characters telling the story from their perspectives, something medical, a legal battle, and then there is a surprise at the end.
Sing You Home is about gay rights in America and she captures many sides of the debate. Her son actually ‘came out’ to her while she was writing the book, which enhanced the reading for me. Here is Picoult on how that came about.
This book comes with a whole CD of songs written to accompany the novel. Picoult wrote the songs but her friend performs them as if it is the main character Zoe singing them. Zoe is a music therapist and it is like she is sharing her art and skill in her work in this way. Music therapy is a remarkable profession that I knew very little about, and I enjoyed learning more. There was also a lot of information about IVF and what a stressful process that can be. And there is the question of what is a family in our world today? With the reality of blended families created by divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage and adoption, there may be more variations of family than we have traditionally seen.
No matter where you stand on the issue of gay rights, it is the personal stories of people whom you know that make all the difference. When you get away from politics and religion, you realize that it is simply about people who want the things that most of us want: a home, a family, and a loving relationship. Therefore, I will not say anything more and let you discover the story as it unfolds.
After you read the book and would like to know more, Jodi has an extensive conversation which I have included here as background information. It is long but very, very well written, explaining where the ideas for the book originated and explaining how she did her research.
The story behind Sing You Home