Ms. Picoult has a definite knack for penning un-put-down-able novels about ordinary people caught up in the most extraordinary circumstances, and this one is no exception.
Zoe Baxter, a music therapist who believes “every life has a soundtrack” and “music is the language of memory” is desperate to have a baby. After four failed rounds of In Vitro Fertilization that have depleted their savings and maxed out their credit cards and two miscarriages she is now forty and pregnant for the fifth time. But during her twenty-eighth week, ironically at her baby shower, she has to be rushed to the hospital where she gives birth to a stillborn boy.
Zoe wants to try again, as soon as possible, but her husband Max puts his foot down. He will not be a party to Zoe endangering her life through another pregnancy and for some time he has been feeling that their marriage is no longer about them—Max and Zoe—only about having a baby.
They divorce and Max goes on a downward spiral, relapsing into alcoholism until the snowy night when he crashes his truck, finds Jesus, and joins the Eternal Glory Church. Meanwhile, a friendship blossoms between Zoe and one of her clients, Vanessa Shaw, a school counselor who hired Zoe to work with an autistic boy. Vanessa is there for Zoe when she is diagnosed with cancer and has to undergo a hysterectomy, forever ending he chances, she thinks, of ever being a mother.
Then the unexpected happens, Vanessa and Zoe’s friendship blossoms into love and when Max discovers that his former wife is now involved in a lesbian relationship he becomes convinced that it is his divinely appointed duty to save his ex-wife’s soul and deliver her from the evil of a same-sex relationship.
Zoe is blissfully happy with Vanessa, more complete and fulfilled than she has ever been, only one thing is lacking—the one thing that would make her happiness complete—a baby. But Vanessa can still have children, she is younger than Zoe and does not have her problematic gynecological history, and after the couple are married during a blizzard and at their honeymoon hotel see a lesbian couple with their son, observes “that could be us someday.” Zoe remembers that there are three frozen embryos left over from her last attempt at In Vitro, and it seems meant to be, the pieces falling magically into place, But there’s a catch, Zoe soon discovers, she has to get Max’s permission to use the embryos. And Max, in thrall to his ultra conservative Christian church is not about to give his consent for his unborn children to be born and brought up in a same-sex marriage, instead he wants to give the embryos to his childless brother and sister-in-law, an infertile couple who have also suffered through a string of miscarriages and long desperately for a child of their own.
And of course, the whole thing ends up in court and becomes a media circus and all kinds of personal and legal complications abound. I won’t spoil it for anyone by saying how it all ends.
Like all the other books I have read by Ms. Picoult, I could hardly bear to put it down. I made the mistake of starting this one at 3:00 a.m. and ended up waking up early just to dive back in.