Book Review for “The Sound Between the Notes” by.
Summary: “Susannah’s career as a pianist has been on hold for nearly sixteen years, ever since her son was born. An adoptee who’s never forgiven her birth mother for not putting her first, Susannah vowed to put her own child first, no matter what. And she did. But now, suddenly, she has a chance to vault into that elite tier of “chosen” musicians. There’s just one problem: somewhere along the way, she lost the power and the magic that used to be hers at the keyboard. She needs to get them back. Now. Her quest―what her husband calls her obsession―turns out to have a cost Susannah couldn’t have anticipated. Even her hand betrays her, as Susannah learns that she has a progressive hereditary disease that’s making her fingers cramp and curl―a curse waiting in her genes, legacy of a birth family that gave her little else. As her now-or-never concert draws near, Susannah is catapulted back to memories she’s never been able to purge―and forward, to choices she never thought she would have to make.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Contemporary, USA – New York, Texas; Other Categories: Novel, Musicians/Music, Adoption, Coming-of-Age.
When Probst asked me to read her debut novel, my expectations were actually pretty low, but proved that she was yet another example of an indie published author who is a truly talented writer. So, when she was ready with this book, she asked me to read and review it, and obviously I didn’t hesitate for even a moment. What’s more, while the previous book was about art (which I know nothing about), this one is about music and musicians, and well… I have no small amount of expertise in that area (with many members of my family being musically talented, including some professional and semi-pro musicians). This also means that I might be more critical of this novel than most readers, precisely because I have some knowledge about the discipline. Let’s keep that in mind, okay?
If you read my review of Patrick Gale’s novel “Take Nothing with You,” you’ll know that I was blown away by how perfectly Gale was able to describe playing the cello. Of course, it wasn’t just that, it was also the whole relationship to the music and the particular pieces being played. I know, I shouldn’t judge a book by an author who is publishing only her second novel against a book by an author with 18 books under his belt, but I couldn’t help it. Yes, I know that Gale was drawing from his own life and what he experienced when he was learning to play the cello as a young boy. But you see, that’s just the thing – Gale’s insights were from his own truth, and I think that was something somewhat missing in this book – the author’s personal truth. Now, I understand that Probst does play the piano, and many of the passages here prove this, but although Probst tells us how Suzanna connects to what she’s playing, it takes her time to figure out how to show us that – but when she did, it was just gorgeous (sorry, no spoilers. You’ll just have to read the book to get to it)!
This doesn’t mean that the book isn’t good, because I found it to be very enjoyable. In fact, the whole thing about the problem with Suzanna’s genetic problem with her hand, and her searching for her birth family rang very true for me. This, combined with how this all affected her marriage and relationship with her teenaged son, and how she’s trying to reboot her career as a pianist, made this book very interesting. While this sounds like there are lots of moving parts, Probst navigates them all with ease. In fact, I think I’m seeing a bit of a pattern here in that Probst presents challenges to her protagonists, and then sees how they go about making decisions that will impact both their present and their future.
In addition, Probst also likes to find the chink in the armor of relationships, and see how far the cracks can go, before it totally falls apart or the damage stops just enough so it can be repaired. This all hinges on the strength of both the relationship and the strength of her female protagonist. In this instance, Suzanna feels a bit weaker than Elizabeth was from her previous novel. Mind you, I think the relationship with Elizabeth and her husband was more tenuous than what Suzanna has with her husband, so there’s a bit of a balance there. Probst also likes to investigate personal identity – the eternal question of “who am I?” is something that most everyone seems to ask themselves. Here, the whole idea of being adopted and not knowing where the genetic disease came from, in addition to Suzanna’s break in her career as a pianist, with the opportunity to reboot it, means that this becomes a coming-of-age story as well.
Once again, Probst likes to speed things up near the end of her book, and throw a curve ball (or two) into the mix (even at over 90% of the book), which sets a stage ripe for epiphanies. That’s always a good thing, but I was a touch wary of how Suzanna and her husband approached this, in what seemed to be at times selfish as well as slightly unreasonable. Still, Probst carries it off with true grace, and although the ending to this book was a touch more sentimental than her first book, I was still happy with the conclusion. One tiny technical niggle – I would have preferred if, when Suzanna was quoting her mother, or imagining what her mother might have said, if those words had been in either italics or single quotation marks. But that’s not a huge problem. For all of this, I think that this is another book I’ll warmly recommend with a healthy four and a half stars out of five, and I hope I’ll be on the list for the ARC of her next book as well!
She Writes Press released “The Sound Between the Notes” by Barbara Linn Probst on April 6, 2021. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the author for sending me the ARC of this novel for this review.
This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: New Release Challenge (#13).