This book was so special, so lyrical, poetical, musical. I enjoyed the heck out of the characters and the setting. Most of the action takes place in New Orleans, and that city is very special to me. I spent my honeymoon there, thirty years ago. To me, that city is magical, and it has a special ambience. As the book says, music is part of its soul. And music is the soul of this book, too.
“No woman can only fall in love with the music of jazz. She always quietly yearns for the musician behind the bars.”
Jasmine Greene only wanted to make her mama proud. To this end, she took countless classes of dancing, singing, and acting. She was homeschooled until she was taken to live in New Orleans for her senior year. She fell in love with New Orleans and with the music that was in the air. She fell in love with jazz and discovered that her happy place was to sing soul.
Her mother was a ruthless ambitious woman, who couldn’t achieve the stardom she wanted for herself, so was determined to get it through her daughter. They lived with the mother’s boyfriend, Ray, and he was much kinder to Jasmine than her own mother. He’s one of the special characters in this book, full of love and generosity towards a girl who was not of his blood but his daughter by heart.
In school, Jasmine befriended this boy who was constantly bullied. He was thin, caramel-skinned, shy, and he stuttered. But when he played the saxophone he made the most beautiful music. She sought him out and they made an unlikely pair, but it worked for them.
“We were complete opposites in so many ways. I was the popular new girl, and he, the bullied shy boy. Where I was outgoing, he was tame. Where I was lost, he was the roadmap home.”
Then her mama took her away to London, to another producer, with more promises of stardom. They left Elliot behind, and Ray, because he had outrun his usefulness. After six years, and after a lot of abuse, even though Jasmine constantly denied it, Jasmine got fed up and flew back home to her father of the heart Ray and the city that was home for her, New Orleans.
Back in New Orleans, she tried to find her way, back to her soul, back to Elliot, but when she finally found him, he was a different person. Bulked up in muscles, closed, hard, cold. Not a trace was left of her beloved old friend, except for his beautiful hazel eyes. He has suffered such a tragic loss that he felt guilty of, that he decided he didn’t deserve to live happy. So he only worked, exercised and kept closed off from everyone except his friend Jason.
Another important person in this book was JT. He was Elliot’s neighbor, and when Elliot’s father deserted them, he stepped in and was a father to Elliot and his sister Katie and a brother to Elliot’s mother. He helped them and saved them. He was also Elliot’s music teacher. When Jasmine returns to New Orleans and finds Elliot’s darkness, she found JT and formed a close friendship with him. JT brought the soul music back to Jasmine. And jasmine brought life back to Elliot.
I loved all the characters, they were all so special. Except the bad ones, of course. Elliot was the anti-hero, shy, stutters, thin and weak, yet courageous. I loved him! Jasmine wanted soul, but her mother forced pop music. She deferred to her mother’s wishes because she wanted to make her proud and have her love. She was always smiling but there were storms inside her.
JT was wise, kind, so musical. His phrase: what’s your truth? He would turn you inside out and get your music from your storms inside. Elliot’s mother was brave, generous, kind too. When karma was served at the end of the book, she was a gentle warrior. Ray was there, always, loving his daughter of the heart, protecting her, helping her. He gave her a home when her mother wouldn’t.
There were so many feels during this book, elation, laughter, sadness, bereavement, anger. This book took me through the grinder and after I finished it, I still had to process for a while, re-read some scenes, get over the sadness that I had finished it. It was a great book, no swoony hunky man, but a man with a lot of heart and courage. The feel of music was in every page, the love of jazz, it reminded me of my wanderings around the French Quarter and the moving statues and the music in the street. It’s a musical love story, with the sadness and joy of music that touches your soul.