So much to like: Picoult, McConnell, Nice

I liked it. I really liked. I know, I was kind of stunned myself. Just goes to prove the old adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by its multi-million dollar-advance earning author’s blockbuster popularity. I don’t read much commercial women’s fiction as I prefer more dark, violent literary fare (easily recognized by black covers and nary a woman, or part of a woman, in sight) and the more popular something is, the more likely I am to shun it (the fact that my mother is a Picoult fan has absolutely nothing to do with my disinclination to read her. Nothing at all).

But there are just too few hugely successful mainstream writers tackling lesbian themes (uh, any?) that I could not resist Sing You Home (Atria, 2011).

And it’s a good read! Good characters, quick pacing, chapters told in alternating points of view (I’m a sucker for that), and two very believable takes on the lesbian experience: Zoe, as she comes out in her late thirties with all of the baby-dyke enthusiasm, insensitivity, uncertainty, and cluelessness of a first year at a women’s college, and Vanessa, a pretty much out lesbian dealing with Zoe (if the woman you’ve been sleeping with has ever introduced you as her “friend” and then edged away from you, you’ll sympathize.)

It does have the hallmarks of commercial fiction including convenient plot developments and changes of heart, characters tailor-made to move the action forward or prove a point, a new twist on every page, and let’s not forget, a “message.” But, I liked this message—lesbians have the same right to raise children as any teen mom—and was completely pulled in and just kept turning those pages to find out if Vanessa and Zoe’s relationship would last through homophobia, courtroom revelations, and a creepy ex-sister-in-law and if Max would turn from religious right pawn back into a sweet, flawed person.

I could roll with just about everything in the interest of weaving a good yarn but I couldn’t believe the timeline of Vanessa and Zoe’s relationship. Within 3 months they have coffee, sleep together, move in together, get engaged, plan a wedding, get married, and decide to have a baby together. That’s crazy–even for lesbians!

I had no idea Picoult’s son came out to her while she was writing this book and was impressed by this interview in the Daily Mail. I may not read any more Picoult (The Tiger’s Wife just landed on my desk! See, black cover!) but I am better for having read this one. I make no claims on the CD of music included with the book.

As for my Lambda Literary Challenge, cross off the Gay Fiction category! I am so glad I finally stopped mooning over the cover for The Silver Hearted by David McConnell (Allyson, 2010) and read the book already. I love books where you slowly realize you can’t trust the narrator and therefore can’t trust the narrator’s perception of people or events. What’s real? Who to believe? What’s the endgame? Is everyone really as sinister as I think they are? Will our narrator escape the perilous, besieged city of A with his treasure and his sanity? It’s an exquisite tension, a little bit Graham Green, a little Joseph Conrad, that McConnell carries to the very jaw-dropping end.

Next up…yet to be determined. Bossypants is going to be a tough act to follow. I nominate Tina Fey as an honorary lesbian. Smart, funny, and the ability to rock a tie, she’s practically a lesbian already!

And, in the spirit of life is too short, don’t watch this. It’s terrible. The clothes are brilliant, you’ll want to run off to Nice and the hot Italian woman will make you think you’re in for some steamy lesbian action but I really can’t decide which is worse: the acting or the wigs. All the best bits are in the trailer so watch that and save 108 minutes of your life. Sometimes anticipation is better….

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