Thursday, August 18, 2011

Songs Without Words by Robbi McCoy

Publisher:             Bella Books

Harper Sheridan is a librarian by profession, a musician by inclination and a film maker by accident.  She spends her school years working at a university and performing in the local symphony.  Her summers are used for travel, making a series of films about female artists and love.  The major events of her life seem to occur during the summer, including a brief, but passionate affair with Chelsea Nichols.  They meet when Harper makes a movie about Chelsea's lover Mary, a talented, but arrogant, artist who sheds young lovers like skin cells, but Chelsea is different for both women.  When Chelsea leaves Harper to return to Mary, Harper is devastated, but years have passed when the book opens and Harper is determined to get on with her life.  This summer is for falling in love.  Unfortunately, her plans are disrupted when her niece runs away from her parents and shows up at Harper's house and then Chelsea reappears.  None of this is what Harper planned for her summer, but she must follow the notes of the song of her life that is being played with all of the skill she has ever used on her cello.

McCoy uses a technique in this book that can be difficult.  She jumps back and forth in time, showing an interaction and then the events that led up to it in previous summers.  Once the reader gets a handle on that, the book flows smoothly.  McCoy gives her story depth by developing interesting supporting characters.  One of the most intriguing is also the one easiest to dislike, the artist Mary.  She's brilliant, talented and cruel, but she's also the first one to truly understand Harper's niece and what she needs.  If Mary wasn't determined to keep Harper and Chelsea apart, she could be a terrific friend, of a type.

Each summer shows how different people shaped who Harper became.  Another artist Wilona leads Harper on a trip of self discovery where she has to redefine her concept of art, creativity and herself.  Her brother Danny, an ex-priest, draws on her spirituality; Roxie, a fellow orchestra member and friend provides a strong dose of reality and stability; and Peggy is the childhood friend whose heart Harper broke, but who revealed and integral part of Harper's being.  As each character interacts with Harper, she becomes the song that is being written.  Each incident is a twisting of notes and tempo until a finished product emerges.

Robbi McCoy is proving her ability to write a complex story while keeping it interesting and easy to understand.  With books like this her fan base can only continue to grow.

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