Sunday, January 24, 2016

Staff Review: Carry Yourself Back to Me by Deborah Reed

Alt-country singer-songwriter Annie Walsh needs relief. Under pressure from her record label to write a new album, recently abandoned by Owen, the man she loves, and still stinging from a betrayal by her brother, Calder, she retreats to her Florida tangelo grove with her dog. When Calder is accused of murder, Annie can no longer avoid the two men she’s struggling to forgive.

There is a specter of ruin throughout Carry Yourself Back to Me; so many of the characters are teetering on the edge and you’re not sure which way they’ll land. Most of the story takes place in Florida around Christmas, and the weather is full of fog and ice storms, adding another level of the unexpected and uncertain to the story. Annie spends time trying to save a tangelo crop from the ice storm, and there’s a parallel between her somewhat futile and dangerous efforts to salvage the crop and the ways she does and doesn’t attempt to salvage her own life and the lives of those she loves.

In the novel, Annie’s last album is described as “… filled with vivid tales of love and loss without the slightest hint of sentimentality.” Her songs are “… painful, clear-eyed, storied songs …” and her voice is “… reminiscent of the great Patsy Cline, Lucinda Williams, and Aimee Mann, all spun into one.” Those descriptions can be turned around and rightly used to describe this novel. I listen to a lot of alt-country, and Reed’s lyrical prose reminds me of that genre’s songs of heartache and redemption. This is a very strong novel that layers mystery, drama, family and love, and the story is like a beautiful song that breaks and lifts your heart all at the same time.

~Aisha, Adult Services

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