Book Review of American Music, by Jane Mendelsohn

Books like this are the very reason why I love book bloggers. Because I’ll be honest … I’m not quite sure I would have picked this up on my own if it wasn’t for Beth Kephart’s recommendation. Back in July, Beth Kephart wrote about the literary luminescence that is American Music and oh my … she is so right, as she is about so many things.

This book is absolutely breathtaking.

From the publisher’s description:  At its center are Milo, a severely wounded veteran of the Iraq War confined to a rehabilitation hospital, and Honor, his physical therapist, a former dancer. When Honor touches Milo’s destroyed back, mysterious images from the past appear to each of them, puzzling her and shaking him to the core.

As Milo’s treatment progresses, the images begin to weave together into an intricate, mysterious tapestry of stories. There are Joe and Pearl, a husband and wife in the 1930s whose marriage is tested by Pearl’s bewitching artistic cousin, Vivian. There is the heartrending story of a woman photographer in the 1960s and the shocking theft of her life’s work. The picaresque life of a woman who has a child too young and finds herself always on the move from job to job and man to man. And the story of a man and a woman in seventeenth-century Turkey—a eunuch and a sultan’s concubine—whose forbidden love is captured in music. The stories converge in a symphonic crescendo that reveals the far-flung origins of America’s endlessly romantic soul and exposes the source of Honor and Milo’s own love.

I absolutely loved these characters (theirs are the stories you want to read forever) and I loved the writing.  Jane Mendelsohn writes in short, spare sentences, almost a perfunctory style.  Normally this wouldn’t be that appealing to me, but in this novel it works so very well.  Because woven throughout are phrases and passages of pure grandeur, and that makes for an incredible literary experience that only the best of authors can do well.

It is so hard to describe the wonder that is contained in these pages, but it is magical and sad and supernatural and oh-so-real and filled with love and history and so very much more.

It is the story of the rhythm of our lives through time, how our stories and our songs echo and reverberate from one generation to another and another.  We think we are the only ones experiencing what we are going through, but in reality, the song has been sung before, perhaps in a different way and by different people.  Still, it is the same song.

“He had seemed ordinary. But then the way he had looked at her in the kitchen had moved something inside her and she had felt seen although she had hidden that from him. She was still very young. Younger than either Pearl or Joe and they had struck her at first as old and sad and only later as experienced. She had traveled. She had been educated. But they had experience. They had sorrow. Maybe it was his sorrow that was looking at her in the kitchen and found hers. A sorrow that lifted when it felt his and soared like a note of music soars.” (pg. 107)  

American Music soars like very few other books have the power to do.

“A note of music soars, she thought, because it is trying to find its way back.” (pg. 107)

You should find your way toward this incredible novel.  

6 thoughts on “Book Review of American Music, by Jane Mendelsohn

  1. Birdy

    Came over from the Blog Hop. The book you have chosen sounds very interesting and I really must give it a try… Wonderful blog here! 🙂

  2. readerbuzz

    That’s exactly what I love about literary book blogs like yours…literary book bloggers are always finding and discovering and sharing wonderful books that no one else knows about!

    Hope you will stop by soon.

  3. JoAnn

    This sounds like my kind of book!! I’m adding it to my list right now… I’ll bet my book club would like it, too. Thanks, Melissa.

  4. bibliophiliac

    This sounds like a wonderful book. My favorite part of this blog hop is reading the impassioned posts about much-loved literary novels. I’ve been a long-time follower and occasional commenter of your blog — I really admire your very genuine voice.

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