Book Reviews

Two Quests in Novel 'Fiddler's Dream'

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Alan Cheuse reviews Fiddler's Dream, by Gregory Spatz. The novel follows a young bluegrass musician as he seeks his long-lost father — and a chance to play with the bluegrass legend, Bill Monroe.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

A young bluegrass musician from New England heads south in search of his musician father, who abandoned him long ago. That's the premise of Gregory Spatz's novel, Fiddler's Dream.

Alan Cheuse has a review.

ALAN CHEUSE reporting:

When a gifted writer finds the language to combine a love of music and a knowledge of music, something just clicks. The story follows a young musician, Jesse Allison, who leaves Vermont for Nashville hoping to achieve a double dream, find his long-lost father and make music with bluegrass legend Bill Monroe.

And almost immediately you find yourself riding along with him and swaying along with him to the music he makes. The first night on the road, Jesse pitches his tent at a campsite and takes out his mandolin. He loves the feeling of the neck between his left thumb and palm, Spatz writes. How it makes his own throat ache and feel pressed out like being full and hungry at the same time. And he loves the curve of the scroll too. The dully varnished, curly maple upswelling like a horse's neck, like a found unfolding, the wood swooping and beveled, going down from the scroll into the belly.

In Nashville, Jesse bunks in the house of a family friend, violinmaker Jenny Fried. Jesse becomes enamored of a fiddle she's refurbished. And even before he takes off for south of Memphis and his father's new address, you know that he and that instrument are going to make beautiful music together.

You hear it in Spatz's prose every time Jesse begins to play, by himself or in jam sessions with some of Nashville's finest. And this novel about finding one's vocation and finding reconciliation, it too jams right along to its minor key but satisfying conclusion.

NORRIS: The book is Fiddler's Dream by Gregory Spatz. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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