Blue Bossa: 1

Bart Schneider, Author Viking Books $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-670-87695-2
Ronnie Reboulet, the Chet Baker-esque hero of this coolly passionate debut, has lost a lot: his teeth, his looks, his wife, his daughter and his career as a singer and trumpeter. On the positive side, he's beaten a heroin habit and found Betty, a girlfriend who forgives his weaknesses and admires his soul, no matter how far he wanders or how hard he tries to keep her at a distance. Then, one evening in the 1970s, his teenage daughter Rae--an aspiring singer who is struggling to give her own baby son the care Ronnie never gave her--appears on his doorstep, desperate for direction and love, and forces her way back into his life. Under her sway, Ronnie starts playing again, first alone, later in a club where the local San Francisco press rediscovers him. The masterful passages that follow Ronnie through his slow relearning of music are full of frustration, beauty and moments of elation. The individual dramas of Ronnie, Betty and Rae are all set against another family crisis that gripped the nation--namely the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. The contrast between the image of Randolph Hearst on TV, forced to make public declarations of his love for Patty, and Ronnie's battle against the urge to flee his family is particularly poignant. With grace and dexterity, Schneider cuts to the heart of the matter, his characters' losses and redemptions, outlining their lives in deceptively simple terms. By the end of the novel, just Ronnie's gesture (described en passant) of slipping off his shoes moves us because we know that it means he's using drugs again. Ronnie's singing style is described as ""intimate, and yet free of affect."" The same could be said about this smooth first novel from the editor of the Hungry Mind Review. Author tour. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/02/1998
Release date: 03/01/1998
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