Toby Devens, |
Happy Any Day Now
(NAL Accent, 2013)
Judith Soo Jin Raphael, the daughter of a Korean woman and a Jewish man, is a cellist with the Baltimore Symphony facing a number of crises in her life. Her mentor, the principle cellist, is dying of cancer and she has been invited to audition for his job. Her promotion isn't guaranteed because the opening of any principle player job brings auditions from the finest musicians in the world, and Raphael is going to have be on her best game to even make it to the finals. Her friend with benefits and fellow symphony member offers to prepare her for her audition, but at that point the man who crushed her 25 years ago comes back into her life, setting up a triangle and causing her to have to make a choice.
As if these events do not cause enough conflict in her life, the father who abandoned Raphael and her mother very early in her life has turned up again, and her mother shows every sign of taking him back.
It's no wonder she begins having panic attacks. How she deals makes up the plot of this surprisingly good novel. Judith Raphael is a complicated and complex heroine, a woman who thought she had her life in order, thought she had survived her struggle to fit in as a half-Jewish, half-Korean kid, thought she had it made now, but she finds everything coming apart at once. Now, she finds herself being dragged back into a relationship she knows isn't really good for her, having to cope with a father she can neither warm up to or trust, and fight a terrifying case of stage fright that comes at exactly the wrong time.
Toby Devens, writing from first-person narration, has given her protagonist a strong and humorous voice that draws a reader into her story. A writer who has a good eye for the telling detail, Devens has come up with a strong book, one with the potential to please a large audience.
book review by
Michael Scott Cain
22 February 2014
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