My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I meant to pick up this book and read a couple of sample pages before settling in proper. Instead, I fell in love with Barrett’s Tale-of-Two-Cities-esq opening line. Then I found myself intrigued by the possibility that here is a woman daft enough to be caught in a love triangle, yet smart enough to know nothing’s going to change. Before I could wonder what’s holding her back, why she’s still waiting, I’m entranced by the possibility of ‘musical thanatology’ being a real thing. Before I knew it, I’d read the entire story in two sittings!
This is a personable, intimate and captivating journey of love, laughter, music, pain, loss, and joy. While Zoe plays her harp to the dying (a beautiful alternative to emergency sirens and CPR on frail old ribcages), her life changes inexorably around her. She has so many life-changing decisions to face she appears to be frozen, even though her subconscious mind has all her answers:
As I rehearse I am back in the company of June, Kip, Reg, and Clara. I’m with Dad and with Tom and Lex and Vivianne. I’m swimming in the sea. I’m flying around the vineyards. I’m making love to Ross and I am completely free.
Even her conscious mind knows it:
Oh humans, we are so feeble, aren’t we? So silly the way we tie our brain in knots to prevent us from doing the very thing that sets us free.
But as with us all, will she step outside of her comfort zone and be free? Zoe’s not just at a crossroads, she’s at a busy nineways where the traffic lights have failed.
This isn’t a story about people in another league, filled with unrealistic events; it’s about real, everyday happenings, about living life. The story is filled with complex human relationships, none of them perfect, and none with a neatly packaged perfect ending. Barrett seamlessly interweaves music (my own memories of listening to the beautiful Wings’ Let ’em In have now been replaced by Zoe’s experiences, while Beethoven’s Fifth has forever been sullied!) with saving lives and letting lives go when it’s time.
[Life] goes too quickly and the time we spend worrying is too long. I worried about Betty, about my job, about the closeness of my shave and the miles on my car. My mind now…it goes to the strangest places…Tiny little incidental moments: waiting in line at the bank, squeezing oranges, waving the kids off to school, putting my arm around Betty’s hip in the middle of the night. All those moments make up your life. I wish I’d chosen them more, enjoyed them more for what they were.
This is a truly beautiful book, much deeper and way richer than The Secret Recipe for Second Chances but still in the same, easy, companionable style (and set in the same world!). Oh and as for the scene with Sassy and Morrissey? I’m with Tom – is that actually legal?!
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway – this is my honest review