Monday, May 10, 2021

REVIEW: The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon


 I *think* this is the first novel I've read by Amy Harmon and I can see why she has a huge fanbase. 

I finished reading The Songbook of Benny Lament several days ago and I'm still thinking about these characters as if they were living, breathing people in the world. There are layers to this story--the outside layer of Benny being interviewed by a radio DJ on the last night of 1969, a middle layer that shares the stories of Benny and Ruth and their backgrounds and families, and the innermost layer that is full of love and angst and action. All of these layers work seamlessly as you move between the various stories and time hops and you can't help but root for them all to find success, love, and acceptance. Between Benny and Ruth's squabbling, the complicated history Benny has with his father and The Family, and the constant worry I had about what was going to happen next and would everyone be okay, my emotions were all over the place. Additionally, the allusions to the Great Migration, plunging us in the middle of the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, and seeing characters trying to navigate the racist views of America were all important pieces to this narrative--honestly, this novel wouldn't exist the way it does without all of these moving parts. 

Part history, part family drama, part music, and part romance all add up to The Songbook of Benny Lament.



New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing.

Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob—and Benny—would rather avoid.

It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist. Benny’s songs and Esther’s vocals are an explosive combination, a sound that fans can’t get enough of. But though America might love the music they make together, some people aren’t ready for Benny Lament and Esther Mine on—or off—the stage.

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