Songs Of The Humpback Whale: A Novel by Jodi PicoultSongs Of The Humpback Whale: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

Songs Of The Humpback Whale: A Novel

byJodi Picoult

Paperback | October 1, 2001

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Sometimes finding your own voice
is a matter of listening to the heart....

Jodi Picoult's powerful novel portrays an emotionally charged marriage that changes course in one explosive moment....For years, Jane Jones has lived in the shadow of her husband, renowned San Diego oceanographer Oliver Jones. But during an escalating argument, Jane turns on him with an alarming volatility. In anger and fear, Jane leaves with their teenage daughter, Rebecca, for a cross-country odyssey charted by letters from her brother Joley, guiding them to his Massachusetts apple farm, where surprising self-discoveries await. Now Oliver, an expert at tracking humpback whales across vast oceans, will search for his wife across a continent -- and find a new way to see the world, his family, and himself: through her eyes.
Jodi Picoult received an A.B. in creative writing from Princeton and a master?s degree in education from Harvard. Her novels include Salem Falls (available in hardcover from Pocket Books), Plain Truth, Mercy, Keeping Faith, and The Pact. Jodi Picoult lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Visit her Web site at www...
Title:Songs Of The Humpback Whale: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.25 × 5.31 × 1 inPublished:October 1, 2001Publisher:Washington Square PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0743431014

ISBN - 13:9780743431019

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Okay I could easily be one of Jodi Picoult's biggest fans. I love her work and have read almost every book she's authored; this one was not one of my favourites. I did enjoy the underlying story, but I found the way she wrote this one to be confusing; she hops all over the place between character's narrative (which is fine), but she is also jumping time (before/after events). It was too all-over-the-place for me.
Date published: 2017-07-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Okay Not my favourite book of JP.
Date published: 2017-06-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Liked it After reading My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult became an instant fave of mine and I just had to read more of her books. I mainly picked up Songs of the Humpback Whale because I saw the title and thought oh! something about humpback whales (I was going through this humpback-obsessed phase at the time). Even though it was not directly about humpback whales (one of the main character’s studies them so it’s a central aspect of the plot), I still loved it! Jane and Oliver Jones have had a rocky marriage and when Oliver chooses career over family yet again, Jane decides enough is enough and leaves with her daughter, Rebecca for her brother’s apple farm. Character development is huge and Picoult lays out all this emotion in the same way that had me falling in love with My Sister’s Keeper. The one thing I strongly disliked – maybe even hated – about the novel was the ending. I personally didn’t agree with Jane’s choice at the end; I felt like that choice made all the growth gained throughout the novel all for nothing. All in all, it’s interesting to think about what I’d do differently because in that way I’m somewhat in Picoult’s head.
Date published: 2017-02-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Probably Picoult's Worst Jane Jones grew up with an abusive father. Her dad would hit and verbally abuse both her and her mother. Jane managed to protect her younger brother, Joley, from the abuse which made Joley have a very deep and strong love for his sister. Jane falls in love with and marries Oliver, a well-recognized expert on humpback whales, her life changes. She has to move to the other side of the country and finds herself at home alone more and more because Oliver leaves on expeditions to watch the whales. She soon has a daughter Rebecca and when she turns three, Oliver and Jane get into such a fight that Oliver slaps Jane and she takes off to Boston with Rebecca. When Oliver threatens to send the FBI to get back his daughter, she sends Rebecca back on a plane that ends up crashing and killing everyone but Rebecca and a couple of other people. Jane goes back to Oliver. It's now 12 years later and the two get in another fight that results in Jane hitting Oliver. Afraid that she's going to become like her father, Jane sets out again on a cross country trip to see Joley. This time, with Rebecca and in the car because she's too afraid to fly. Joley gives them directions day by day, taking them on an odd route to see places he thinks would be therapeutic. We learn that the relationship between Jane and Rebecca is a bit strained. Layers to their relationship are peeled away as they get closer and closer to their destination. This story is told from the perspective of five different people. Rebecca tells the story from the end to the beginning, which is interesting, however I feel that it detracts a bit from the story because there isn't much of a climax at the end. Infact, the overall tone of this book is rather flat. Everything goes in a circle and there isn't much resolution at the end. This is my least favourite Jodi Picoult book.
Date published: 2011-08-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst book I have ever read Jodi Picoult has written some gems, but this is not one of them. I hated the way that it was written. The multiple points of view has worked for her books in the past, but in this book, it just made it a confusing read. I also hated the characters. It is the first and only book I have ever had to give up on. I read the first half and the end and I have no desire to finish the rest. She has much better offerings, don't waste your time on this one.
Date published: 2011-05-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from not Picoult's best Jane Jones is a speech pathologist living in California with her famous husband, Oliver. Oliver researches songs of the humpback whale and find repetitions and when they sing. He has become world renown. Oliver has become so immersed in his research, he has little time to devote to his family. When Jane gets into another one of their arguments, she actually hits Oliver this time. Horrified because she had an abusive father, she runs away. Her daughter, Rebecca , age 15, accompanies her. Jane contacts her brother, Joley and wants to visit him. He gives her directions day by day driving her across the country and making her see points of interest. One of the points of interest is in Iowa where Rebecca survived an airplane crash when Jane had left Oliver another time and put Rebecca on the plane to return to Oliver alone. Finally Jane and Rebecca arrive at the apple orchard in Massachusetts. Joley is working there alongside the owner, Sam and his assistant, Hadley, both 25. Jane falls in love with Sam and Rebecca with Hadley. This novel was written in 5 voices. But the time frames are different as some are forwards and Rebecca is backwards. Although I did enjoy the book, it was not as good as some of Picoult's other books. There were some glaring problems. Hadley being so much older than Rebecca puts his actions in the realm of statutory rape, yet no one seems to worry about this aspect. The trip across the country is the most chaotic trip ever, with backtracking and sometimes it felt like it was the most indirect route available that was taken. The ending was hurried and as far as I was concerned not at all either satisfying or explained.
Date published: 2011-04-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good, but a bit confusing I found this novel to be a good read. With that said, I found all the perspectives and the time differences to be somewhat confusing.
Date published: 2010-06-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another Great Picoult Another great Picoult book...once you start, you can't stop until the end. Picoult has a way of reaching into the minds and hearts of all her characters without one of them losing credibility.
Date published: 2009-02-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Hard to follow Even though I really liked Ninteen Minutes I found this book all over the map.I found it difficult to keep my attention focused.I finally gave up and put the book aside.I have two more of her books and I truely hope they are more captivating.
Date published: 2009-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another interesting read by Picoult I was apprehensive to read more books by Picoult as they're never as good as the first bestseller - but I enjoyed this book. The five different voices give their perspective on incidents so you see what was going through each person's mind and their motivations. I found the way Jodi reflected each person's insights interesting in one way - and disturbing in others (brother and sister relationship). I will happily read another of her books.
Date published: 2008-10-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another lovely story from Picoult... I am a HUGE fan of Jodi Picoult's books and have read just about all of them. Although I really enjoyed this story and would recommend it to other Picoult fans - I did find this one a little challenging to follow as each chapter shifted from character to character, and from time to time. That said, the book portrayed a lovely story and was a terribly addictive read; keeping me up late many evenings to read, "just one more chapter".
Date published: 2007-06-08

Read from the Book

Chapter One: JaneThe night before I got married I woke up, screaming, from my sleep. My parents came into the room and put their arms around me; they patted my head and smoothed my hair, fine, and I still couldn't stop screaming. Even with my mouth closed, I continued -- the high, shrill note of a nocturnal animal.My parents were beside themselves. We lived in a button-down suburb of Boston, and we were waking up the neighbors one by one. I watched the lights come on in different houses -- blue and yellow, blinking like Christmas -- and wondered what was happening to me.This wasn't a common occurrence. I was barely nineteen, a straight-A student fresh out of Wellesley College and in 1976 that was still an accomplishment. I was marrying the man of my dreams in a prototypical white clapboard New England church, and the reception -- a lavish one with white-gloved waiters and Beluga caviar -- was going to be held in my parents' backyard. I had a job waiting for me when I returned from my honeymoon. There was no foreseeable problem that I could articulate.To this day, I don't know why that happened to me. As mysteriously as it all started, the screaming went away and the next morning I married Oliver Jones -- the Oliver Jones -- and we just about lived happily ever after.I am the only speech pathologist in this town, which means I get shuttled back and forth to different elementary schools in the San Diego suburbs. It's not such a big deal now that Rebecca is old enough to take care of herself, and since Oliver is away so much of the time, I have less to do at home. I enjoy my work but certainly not the way Oliver enjoys his work. Oliver would be content to live in a sailcloth tent on the coast of Argentina, watching his whales sound in warm water.My job is to help children find their voices -- kinds that come to school mute, or with lisps or cleft palates. At first, they come into my little makeshift classroom one at a time and they shuffle their Keds on the floor and shyly glance at the formidable recording equipment and they are absolutely silent. Sometimes I stay silent too, until the student breaks the ice and asks what he or she is supposed to do. Some students cover their mouths with their hands at this point; I have even seen one little girl cry: they cannot stand to hear their own voices, pieces of themselves that they have been told are ugly. My role is to show them there's someone who is ready to listen to what they have to say and the way they have to say it.When I was seven, I tell these kids, I used to whistle every time I said the letter S. In school I got teased and because of this I did not have many friends and I did not talk very much. One day my teacher told the class we'd be putting on a play and that everyone had to participate. I was so nervous about reading aloud in front of everyone else that I pretended I was sick. I faked a fever by holding the thermometer up to a light bulb when my mother left the room. I was allowed to stay home for three days, until my teacher called, and my mother figured out what I was doing. When I went back to school, my teacher called me aside. All of the parts had been taken in the play, she said, but she had saved a special role for me, offstage. I was going to be the Manager of Sound Effects, just like in the movies. I practiced with my teacher every day after school for three weeks. In time I discovered I could become a fire engine, a bird, a mouse, a bee, and many other things because of my lisp. When the night of the play came, I was given a black robe and a microphone. The other students got to be just one part, but I became the voice of several animals and machines. And my father was so proud of me; it was the only time I remember him telling me so.That's the story I give at those Coastal Studies cocktail parties Oliver and I go to. We rub shoulders with people who'll give grant money. We introduce ourselves as Dr. and Dr. Jones, although I'm still ABD. We sneak out when everyone is going to sit down to the main course, and we run to the car and make fun of people's sequined dresses and dinner jackets. Inside, I curl up against Oliver as he drives, and I listen to him tell me stories I have heard a million times before -- about an era when you could spot whales in every ocean.In spite of it all, there's just something about Oliver. You know what I'm talking about -- he was the first man who truly took my breath away, and sometimes he still can. He's the one person I feel comfortable enough with to share a home, a life, a child. He can take me back fifteen years with a smile. In spite of differences, Oliver and I have Oliver and I.In this one school where I spend Tuesdays, my office is a janitorial closet. Sometime after noon the secretary of the school knocks on the door and tells me Dr. Jones is on the phone. Now this is truly a surprise. Oliver is at home this week, putting together some research, but he usually has neither the time nor the inclination to call me. He never asks what school I head to on a given day. "Tell him I'm with a student," I say, and I push the play button on my tape recorder. Vowel sounds fill the room: AAAAA EEEEEIIIII. I know Oliver too well to play his games. OOOOO UUUUU. Oh, you. Oh, you.Oliver is Very Famous. He wasn't when we met, but today he is one of the leading researchers of whales and whale behavior. He has made discoveries that have rocked the scientific world. He is so well known that people take pictures of our mailbox, as if to say, "I've been to the place where Dr. Jones lives." Oliver's most important research has been on whale songs. It appears that whole groupings of whales sing the same ones -- Oliver has recorded this -- and pass the songs down over generations. I don't understand much about his work, but that is just as much my fault as Oliver's. He never tells me about the ideas burning in his mind anymore, and I sometimes forget to ask.Naturally Oliver's career has come first. He moved us to California to take a job with the San Diego Center for Coastal Studies, only to find out East Coast humpbacks were his true passion. The minute I got to San Diego I wanted to leave, but I didn't tell Oliver that. For better or for worse, I had said. Oliver got to fly back to Boston and I stayed here with an infant, in a climate that is always summer, that never smells like snow.I'm not taking his phone call.I'm not taking this again, period.It is one thing for me to play second fiddle; it is another thing to see it happen to Rebecca. At fourteen she has the ability to take a survey of her life from a higher vantage point -- an ability I haven't mastered at thirty-five -- and I do not believe she likes what she is seeing. When Oliver is home, which is rare, he spends more time in his study than with us. He doesn't take an interest in anything that isn't tied to the seas. The way he treats me is one matter: we have a history; I hold myself accountable for falling in love in the first place. But Rebecca will not take him on faith, just because he is her father. Rebecca expects.I've heard about teenagers who run away, or get pregnant or drop out of school, and I have heard these things linked to problems at home. So I offered Oliver an ultimatum. Rebecca's fifteenth birthday next week coincides with Oliver's planned visit to a humpback breeding ground off the coast of South America. Oliver intends to go. I told him to be here.What I wanted to say is: This is your daughter. Even if we have grown so far apart that we don't recognize each other when we pass, we have this life, this block of time, and what do you think about that?One reason I keep my mouth shut is Rebecca's accident. It was the result of a fight with Oliver, and I've been doing my best to keep something like that from happening again. I don't remember what that argument was about, but I gave him a piece of my mind and he hit me. I picked up my baby (Rebecca was three and a half at the time) and flew to my parents. I told my mother I was going to divorce Oliver; he was a lunatic and on top of this he'd hit me. Oliver called and said he didn't care what I did but I had no right to keep his daughter. He threatened legal action. So I took Rebecca to the airport and told her, "I'm sorry, honey, but I can't stand that man." I bribed a stewardess with a hundred dollars to take her on the plane, and it crashed in Des Moines. The next thing I knew I was standing in a farmer's cornfield, watching the wreckage smoke. It still seemed to be moving. The wind sang through the plane's limbs, voices I couldn't place. And behind me was Rebecca, singed but intact, one of five survivors, curled in her father's arms. She has Oliver's yellow hair and freckles. Like him, she's beautiful. Oliver and I looked at each other and I knew right then why fate had made me fall in love with a man like Oliver Jones: some combination of him and of me had created a child who could charm even unyielding earth.Copyright © 1992 by Jodi Picoult

Bookclub Guide

Songs of the Humpback Whale WSP Readers Guide Introduction Jodi Picoult's richly literary novel Songs of the Humpback Whale tells the story of a fragile family and one woman's voyage towards self-discovery. When an explosive argument with her husband prompts Jane and her daughter Rebecca to abruptly leave their California home, the two women head east armed with little other than a few dollars, the clothes on their backs, and their love for one another. Traversing their way across the United States, following the directional clues provided to them by Jane's brother Joley, Jane and Rebecca inch their way toward Massachusetts while Oliver, an expert whale tracker, follows close behind his wife and daughter. When Jane and Rebecca arrive at a Massachusetts apple orchard, they each meet new people who will challenge them and force them to reconsider their life choices. Sam, a small-town apple farmer, pushes Jane to unveil the secrets of her past, finally enabling her to open her heart in the present. When Rebecca witnesses her mother and Sam's burgeoning love affair, she finds solace in Hadley, who offers her the support and nurturing she has so often yearned for from her own parents. Once Oliver arrives at the orchard to reclaim his family, Jane must finally decide whether or not to abandon her newfound love in order to return to California and fulfill her responsibilities to her husband and her daughter. It is only after a tragic accident that the Jones family can finally return home, together again but forever changed. Questions and Topics for Discussion Warning: Spoilers Ahead 1. Discuss the novel's structure. How did the alternating voices enhance or detract from the reading experience for you? Did you find that the characters' differing accounts of the events of the novel added to the dramatic tension, and how so? Similarly, Rebecca is the only character to narrate the novel's events backwards chronologically. How does this affect the reading experience? 2. So much of the novel is about voice and people finding themselves through their voices -- Jane is a speech therapist, Oliver tracks whale songs, Joley's words guide Jane and Rebecca across the country. Which relationships in the novel are founded on spoken connections and which are based on something other than language? How are these relationships different? How do these different relationships affect the characters? 3. When mentioning his research, Oliver proposes that the personal histories of whales -- "who the whale is, where he has been sighted, with whom he has been sighted -- tell us something about why he sings the way he does" (9). Discuss how each of the characters in the novel are shaped by their past? 4. The relationship between Jane and Rebecca is one of the most complex in the novel. Although Jane is Rebecca's mother, it often seems that Rebecca is the more mature person -- Hadley even tells Sam that Rebecca takes "better care of her mother than the other way around" (312). Rebecca similarly comments that she and Jane are "more like equals" (107). Discuss their relationship. Why do you think they relate to one another this way? 5. Although it is Rebecca who packs up, gets in the car, and urges her mother to run away from Oliver, she also misses her father and her home while she and her mother are traveling across the country. Speculate on what Rebecca really wants for each of her parents. Do you think she wants to return to California? Why or why not? 6. The relationship between Joley and Jane is one of the most meaningful in the novel. Although Jane spent most of her childhood protecting Joley, it is Joley who cares for Jane in her adult life. Discuss the bond between them. What is it based on? Does Joley's love for Jane seem illicit at times, why or why not? 7. Joley tells Jane and Rebecca that he will write them across the country, sending them "to places he thinks they need to go." Discuss the different geographic locations of their voyage. Why do you think Joley sends them to each place he does? How does each location affect them? 8. Sam comments that "if you leave things to their natural course, they go bad." Discuss Sam and his life choices. In what ways has he struggled against the natural course of his life, and in which ways has he accepted that he is living the life he was destined to? 9. When Sam and Jane first meet, they each assume certain things about one another -- Jane assumes that Sam is a simple farmer, and Sam assumes that Jane is no different from other wealthy Newton girls. In what ways do Sam and Jane live up to one another's assumptions, and in what ways do they each defy the other's preconceived notions? 10. Chapters 39, 40, and 41 offer Rebecca, Jane's, and Oliver's different perspectives of the plane crash. Although these chapters all begin the same way: "Midwest Airlines flight 997 crashed on September 21, 1978, in What Cheer, Iowa -- a farming town sixty miles south east of Des Moines," they each offer three different perspectives of the same event. Discuss these differing perspectives. What do the differences and similarities reveal about each character and the impact that event had on the rest of their lives? 11. At the site of the plane crash, Oliver finally finds Jane and Rebecca. Though he is sitting close enough to touch them, he finds that he cannot bring himself to announce his presence. What is Oliver thinking? How does this moment motivate him to change? By the end of the novel, has he successfully transformed himself? 12. When Oliver goes to save Marble, the whale that is tangled in nets in Gloucester, it seems that he is temporarily calling off his search for his wife and daughter. How did you react to his decision? Do you think that Oliver was motivated only by a desire to get on camera and to make a public plea for Jane and Rebecca, or did you think that he may have been reverting to his old ways? 13. At the end of the novel, Jane abandons her love for Sam, choosing instead to honor her responsibilities to her husband and daughter. How did you react to that choice? Did you find it surprising? Frustrating? What clues did Picoult provide throughout the novel to signal that Jane would eventually make this choice? 14. Jane comments that "you can take dead trees in an orchard and bring them back to life" (346). Discuss the final moments of the novel. In what ways have Jane, Rebecca, and Oliver changed? Do you think that the conclusion of the novel is ultimately hopeful about the family's future? Why or why not?

Editorial Reviews

Ann Hood Author of Do Not Go Gentle Rich and charming....Jodi Picoult casts a spell with her beautiful imagery and language. Reading this book is a delight.