Songs of the Humpback Whale (novel)

Songs of the Humpback Whale

First edition
Author Jodi Picoult
Country United States
Language English
Genre Family saga novel
Publisher Faber & Faber
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 352 pp
ISBN 0-7434-3101-4
OCLC 53973621

Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992) is the debut novel of Jodi Picoult. It is about a woman who chooses to leave her emotionally abusive and distant husband behind in favor of driving across the country from San Diego, California to live with her brother in Massachusetts. Her teenage daughter chooses to come with her. Oliver, her husband, chooses to follow them in an attempt to save his family.

Plot summary

Jane Jones, a speech pathologist, has been married to Oliver Jones for almost twenty years. Together, they have a teenage daughter named Rebecca. Oliver, a world-renowned marine biologist, has a history of being emotionally abusive and unavailable. After an argument that culminated in Jane slapping Oliver, Jane calls her brother, Joley, who is living and working on an apple orchard in Massachusetts. Through a series of letters, he guides her and Rebecca across the country until they are reunited, while Oliver begins tracking them down.

The orchard is owned by Sam, who employs and lodges his friend, Hadley, as well as Jane's brother, Joley. Soon, Jane and Sam begin an affair, and a relationship develops between Rebecca and Hadley. This is controversial, because Hadley is 25 and Rebecca is 15 (Jane is 35 and Sam is 25). Jane is worried about Rebecca and persuades Sam to chase Hadley away. Sam agrees reluctantly.

Eventually, Oliver is able to track Jane and Rebecca to the orchard. He arrives there with the intention of bringing them back to San Diego. However, Rebecca, afraid of being separated from Hadley, runs away to his mother's house where he is staying. They are discovered one morning on top of a mountain and confronted by Oliver, along with Sam and a park ranger. Hadley falls from the mountain to his death. Sick with pneumonia from spending the night outside, Rebecca has no choice but to return to the farm.

Confronted with the consequences of her actions, Jane returns home with Oliver and Rebecca.

Narrative style

Songs of the Humpback Whale is told in five voices. It uses the alternating narrator style that Picoult employs in My Sister's Keeper, in which characters take turns narrating chapters; however, Rebecca's chapters are told in reverse order of the events from her and Jane deciding to return to California from Massachusetts, to the start. In the paperback version of the book, each character narrates in a different font.

See also

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