By Jane Mendelsohn
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307272669, 256pp.)
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
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From the author of I Was Amelia Earhart, a luminous love story that winds through several generations—told in Jane Mendelsohn’s distinctive mesmerizing style.
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.
A beautiful mystery and a meditation on love—its power and its limitations—American Music is a brilliantly original novel.
Jane Mendelsohn is a graduate of Yale University. She is the author of two previous novels, including the New York Times best seller I Was Amelia Earhart. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
“How can something so slim cover so much ground? This breadth is achieved through a series of haunting impressions that trace the story of a family, the history of 20th-century America, and the evolution of American music . . . Although we meet these characters hastily, we come to know them well. It is a testament to Mendelsohn’s skill that she can decode a lifetime in an image.” —Jennifer Gilmore, The New York Times Book Review
“A novel about the power of stories [and] what a captivating storyteller Mendelsohn can be. She’s remarkably good at setting scenes quickly and evocatively, raising up characters we care about immediately and drawing us into their conflicts . . . A romantic story of romantic stories, full of love and longing, despair and loneliness, and one woman’s connection to all of them.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“Unpretentious, moving, intelligent, and fresh . . . An inventive, passionate, pithy novel whose major theme is love itself and whose minor theme, music, is an emotional, meaningful counterpoint. Like Count Basie and His Orchestra, this book swings.” —Kate Christensen, Elle Magazine lead review
“Stories appear in all their glorious detail—bits of sparkling fabric, pieces of song, a whirling dance, a white sky and a black sea. Jane Mendelsohn captures them as you might in the glare of an old-fashioned light bulb . . . Milo and Honor fall in love. Love is the mirage they step into, leaving behind all kinds of wounds and stories. It is an aleph of a novel, a keyhole one looks into and cannot pull away from.” —Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times
“Luminous . . . [a] relationship between a wounded Iraq War veteran and his physical therapist releases a torrent of memories, dreams, and alternate lives . . . a magically consoling reminder that beneath the starkest cases of wounding and healing is the music of love lost and found.” —Kirkus
“In her exquisite, psychologically fluent novels, the actual and imagined merge as Mendelsohn tests the power of stories to define, guide, and sometimes destroy us. Her third novel is an intricate puzzle of haunting, far-reaching, secretly connected love stories. . . Each milieu is sensuously rendered, while music, especially jazz, serves as the unifying force, and the key to surviving epic desire and loss.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)