"...will you look at the sight of it, Jo, will you have a look at that." Josephine and Bobby Pickering, father and daughter, spend most of the year driving cross-country in England. They live the life of free-spirits unhindered by the schedules and home issues of most people. They look at everything, exploring further when fascinated and dismissing when the subject or object fails to hold their attention.
But what they often think about and yet never fully explore are the people and events that have shaped their personality, that haunt, terrorize, and plague them with grief to the point of unresolved depression. So Bobby reminisces about family and finds his comfort in the sweetness and sorrow of country music. Never do we hear much from him about Jo's mother, Rosalie, once she disappears from their lives. It's Jo who will deal with the disappearance in a most unexpected manner later in the novel.
Jo is a people-watcher and immediately links to a young country singer, Cosima, with whom she later develops a sister-like relationship that really hints of the yearnings of a child for a mother. It is Cosima who initially helps Jo cope with the "departure" of Bobby, but what emerges over time becomes a hatred imploding and threatening to become murderous.
Jo will eventually come to grips with her personal demons, but that's not the focus of this artistic work of fiction. Albyn Leah Hall is a literary artist who knows how to get under the character's surface appearance and reveal the "whole" personality with all of its grace, grit, and ambiguity. The reader is compelled to follow these characters despite likes or dislikes. They are so fascinating because they possess the qualities of "everyman," - you and me!
In the beginning of the novel, one of the characters is reading a book about culture. It is the revelation of what really drives culture that is also the brilliant subplot threading through the rhythm of this novel. Art's motives and visions run deep through the hearts and minds of musicians, again touching the reader because of the empathy in the experience.
Enchanting! A writer very much worth watching now and in the future!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on January 23, 2007