Jodi Picoult's newest novel, Sing You Home, is a gripping and complex journey through a rainbow of controversial subjects. Gay marriage and parenting, infertility, alcoholism, divorce, adultery, and the Christian right--topics offensive to some yet close to others' hearts are flayed open for readers explore.
Her tale revolves around Zoe, a music therapist who has endured years of infertility treatments in her quest for a child. She is left reeling after her husband, unable to cope with a recent tragic stillbirth, walks out on their marriage. Zoe is as surprised as everyone else in her life when she suddenly falls in love...with a another woman. After a wedding across state lines, the same-sex couple decides to have a child using Zoe's last frozen embryo, but her ex-husband and his newfound born-again Christian compatriots turn the couple's desire to have a family into a sensational and very public morality play.
In a Chicago Tribune review of Picoult's novel Susan Salter Reynolds writes, "The fact is, literature, when pressed, is always liberal, always progressive, always democratic. The very act of trying to understand the other side (much less create sympathetic characters) is a liberal act."
Does that mean all fiction writers are liberal?
lib·er·al /ˈlɪbərəl, ˈlɪbrəl/ Show Spell
1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
2. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
3. favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
4. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant.
5. open-minded or tolerant, especially free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.
6. characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts.
7. not strict or rigorous; free; not literal.
All writers, in some sense or manner, share their personal values and beliefs with us as they scribble down their stories. Picoult's stand on the issues in her novel were crystal clear and would be considered extremely liberal in the political and social definitions. How much of our personal beliefs are ingratiated into our characters' thoughts and actions?
Are we liberal because we force ourselves inside the minds of characters, whether they are serial killers or saints, in an attempt to create a well-rounded individual readers believe could exist outside the pages of the story? Or because we so often push the established boundaries of current and familiar society, subliminally spoon-feeding ideas and dogmas to the reader while they are vulnerable in our carefully concocted realm of suspended disbelief?
What do you think?