I don't know how I feel about being preached at, even when I agree with the preacher.
This review is going to be raw and my most honest review on Goodreads to date. This is going to be long and tedious and I will completely understand if it's a TL;DR type deal. No worries. But I feel this must be said.
This is because I have been one of those evangelical Christians that were so thoroughly bashed in this novel. I have also been with my very best guy friend in the entire world as he came out and got a whole lot of back lash for it. I stood by him, I supported him and I desperately loved (and still love) him all while I was an evangelical Christian.
Even though I am an atheist now, it has nothing to do with any dissatisfaction with my old church or the people who attended. It was just a personal decision I made on my own that most of them know about and don't really care about. They love me just the same and no one has tried to save my soul or any other ridiculous nonsense.
I have only read two other books by Picoult and I remember enjoying them both. It's important to mention that I was six years younger when I read them and, although that may be irrelevant, I can't help but feel I'm enjoying her books less and less as I age. I think I'm getting sick of the guilt trips and of the absolutely blatant agenda
that her books possess.
Let me first say that Picoult's writing style is ridiculously fluid. She is extraordinarily easy to read and even though I quickly figured out this was going to be a message book - and one that sort of slams the message in your face - I kept reading on because her writing style is addicting. I can easily see why she is so popular among the masses. She broaches controversial topics and always roots for the underdog. Couple that with a good writing style and it's gold.
The problem is that while she has a good writing style
, I would not say that Jodi Picoult is a good writer
. There was a lot of reader manipulation happening in this novel - a lot of things that the narrators hid from us when, in a first person narrative, there should have been no secrets kept from the reader, but why is it that reader is never told about Zoe's abortion, something she, herself, says has haunted her for most of her life. If this situation has truly haunted her then why wouldn't she be thinking about it constantly and why would the reader be withheld from it? This was a plot device meant to elicit shock from the reader but it was very poorly executed. Instead of being a surprise, it was obvious manipulation of the text. The same can be said for Vanessa's suicide attempt.
The same can be said for the characters: although I think Picoult really did try her best to be as objective as possible, I just couldn't get over the blatant agenda behind this book. A lot of people have said the message is that if you're a homosexual, you will make a fabulous parent. But I don't think that's the message here. In fact, Liddy - possibly the most interesting character - was mentioned many times as having the potential to be a fantastic mother and she was one of the hated evangelical Christians. No, the message here was not about homosexuals being saints. The message was that evangelical Christians are the devil.
Listen. I have been around the types mentioned in this novel. I've known the Pastor Clives and the Wade Prestons and I've rolled my eyes in distaste and repulsion along with almost every single Christian person I know. Granted, nearly all of my evangelical friends think being gay is a sin, they would never, and I mean never
do any of the things these churches did, such as picketing movie theaters that are promoting gay movies. They consider it to be on the same level as lying - a sin is a sin. It doesn't matter if it's murder or a little white lie, it's still a sin and we all sin
. One of my closest friends in the entire world works at a theme park dedicated to doing musicals about the life and death of Christ. She reads her Bible religiously. She talks about Jesus all the time
, but I never get sick of it because I can tell it's really important to her. You know what she doesn't do? She doesn't bash gay people. She doesn't say that being gay is a terrible, horrible thing. She supports gay marriage because she doesn't think it's the government's place to say who can or can't marry the person they fell in love with.
She may not agree with the lifestyle, but she would never, ever try to take away what we ALL know to be equal rights. She works in the performing arts and is a fantastically talented performer. A great majority of the men she works with are gay and all she ever has to say about them are kind and positive things. Their sexual orientation has never entered into a conversation we've had.
I have another friend, a preacher's daughter who married a preacher and is a preacher herself. She is one of the kindest people I've ever met. I remember a time when I had a friend in Uni going through a really tough time and she was doing drugs and just losing herself in the moment. I remember being worried about her but I hated hearing what our friends had to say about her, Christian and atheist alike: "Oh," they said, "Jane's (not her real name) losing it. She's throwing away her life. How could she be so stupid?" And I remember thinking to myself, "Why don't you talk to her? Why don't you try and help her stop doing drugs?" I really wish I had said those things to them out loud, but instead I always just changed the subject. So, one day, I was out at Starbucks with my preacher's daughter/preacher's wife/preacher friend. I always loved hanging out with her, even after I became an atheist, because she was raw and real and lived what she preached
. I love people who have passion - even religious passion - as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else and as long as there is no hate speech involved.
I remember Jane coming up in conversation and my preacher friend told me she had hear about her. She said, "Don't worry about it. She has great friends who love her. She's just experimenting and if it gets out of control, we're always here for her." This was the LEAST JUDGMENTAL thing I had heard about poor Jane from anyone and it came out of the mouth of the type of person everyone tries to say is the most judgmental of them all.
Everyone always runs around saying how it's Christians who are so terribly judgmental - and yeah, there are a lot of them that are, but guess what? Everyone is judgmental
. Just like not all Christians are these psychopaths you read about in this novel, not all gay people are saints. I have multiple gay and lesbian friends, but, as I mentioned earlier, I am VERY close to one of them. He has been there for me through a lot of hardships in my life as I have been there for him. He is my rock and I hope I am his, too. This book does paint gays in a good light, I think because it's supporting the underdog. And, for the most part, most of the gay and lesbian friends I have are exceptional people - however a lot of the people they date aren't. Take my best friend for example: his first boyfriend stole his money, used his name to buy a car and then ran off five states away so it became harder to sue him. He treated my friend like he was the scum of the Earth and the worst part was that my friend, one of the strongest, gentlest, most loving and caring men I know, began to believe it. This was an abusive relationship. Does this sound like a good person to you? I hope not because he was one of the worst people I've met in my entire life, and this was a gay man.
What I'm trying to say is that being Christian doesn't make a person good or bad and neither does being gay. Being gay, being a Christian, being a whatever... this does NOT define a person's identity. These are just aspects of the overall package. There is absolutely 100% NOTHING wrong with being gay, but there is also nothing wrong with being a Christian either. As long as no one is trying to shove any type of beliefs down my throat, whether they're liberal or conservative, and as long as people can live in harmony, well... isn't that a dream we all share?
I remember watching a documentary recently about radical Muslims in Brussels trying to implement the Sharia law in Belgium. So what did some of the Belgians do? They retaliated and now it has turned into this heated battle. Where has the middle ground gone? I'll tell you where: NOWHERE. It is still there. There are open-minded Belgian people and there are moderate Muslims and, in fact, the vast majority fall into this gray area, but no one wants to see it. They want to focus on the radicals. They want to see a fight.
I really do think that Picoult tried to convey the fact that not all Christians are psychos with the characters of Max and Liddy, but the problem was that it was a failed attempt. After Max's generous gift at the end and Liddy's revelation, we never hear about their spiritual life again. This made me think: so they can't have these liberal ideas and be Christians at the same time? We never find out if they went back to their old church or if they found a new church and that really bothered me. I think that's where the failure happened. If Picoult had only mentioned something - anything
- about this, it would have been so much more successful.
I just wish that people would stop attacking other people for believing differently than they do. And I'm not just talking about Christians here. Yes, a lot of what the Christian church preaches makes me cringe, but I am able to see that there's a lot of good that they do, too. However, it's not just the Christians who attack. Atheists attack. Muslims attack. Gay people attack and straight people attack. It's unfair to try and shine a light on one group of people while ignoring the rest. It's unfair not to present a balanced opinion and that's how I felt about a lot of this book: it's unfair.
Maybe no one will ever read this review, but if you do and your disagree, I would love to hear your viewpoints if you can share it lovingly. I'm always open to talk about books and I love hearing differing opinions. If, however, it is an attack, it will be deleted. You can always repost it and rephrase, though.