Have you ever heard the sounds that humpback whales make? The sounds that are supposed to be their songs? Let me tell you it is one of the eeriest and most depressing sounds you will ever hear. It will leave you shaken for a while. I feel that this book has been named “Songs of the Humpback Whale” for the same reason. Every character in the book has a life that has some underlying sorrow. When you look at them, you see beauty. You see a man saving whales in the ocean, three men growing the best juiciest apples in an orchard, and a mother and daughter on a trip across the country. But when you go closer, when you try to hear their ‘songs’, you see that it is a profound grief that drives them to do what they do.
The author has beautifully portrayed the way the lives of five people are intertwined. For any scene, you get to read it from at least three different perspectives, and that makes you connect with each of them, and feel for each of them. You can’t be partial to any one of the characters. Jane leaves Oliver in the beginning of the story. The reader is bound to feel pity for Oliver. But then you can’t blame Jane, because you understand Jane’s point of view too. That is the way with Jodi Picoult’s writing. You can make her characters your own, and their life is a part of your life too.
Jodi understands love, and she understands heartbreak. That is the reason it comes out so raw and painful in her writing. There is a scene where Rebecca is trying to rip her heart out of her chest when Hadley dies. It directly brings to you the pain Rebecca must have felt. Jodi understands the relationship of a mother and daughter too, and it is shown beautifully in all the interactions between Jane and Rebecca. Life is weird and unpredictable, and the course of the lives shown in this book is a perfect example.
There is only one little thing that I would have liked better. Hadley’s death is revealed way too early in the story. So when you are reading about Rebecca and Hadley’s sweet love story, you already know it’s not going to last. If Hadley’s death would have come as a surprise near the end, it would have been a bigger blow to the reader, and that would have made the story stay with the reader for a longer time.
The story ends with a good message. The author has compared life to an apple orchard. You can take dead trees in an orchard and bring them back to life by grafting. In life, you can bring together the unlikely and bring back what is past hope. In the end, there is some good strain in every variety of apple.