The Celestial Jukebox

Cynthia Shearer, Author Shoemaker & Hoard $25 (431p) ISBN 978-1-59376-052-6
A crotchety old Chinese-American man sweeps up brilliant pink blossoms as cats weave about his skinny legs, and dreams of a dance with a Honduran lady in white keds; a middle-aged farmer fights the onslaught of what passes for progress and examines what may be the end of his marriage; a young woman of color examines her past and seeks to capture the sad music of the Delta on film; a young Mauritanian man, freely come to Mississippi from Africa, finds both wonder and confusion in this loud, bright new land, as he longs after an old steel guitar in a pawn-shop window and falls further in love with the blues of the American kaffir. A no-longer-so-young mother fights her sense of invisibility in her family's life and is suddenly visible to someone forbidden. The damaged, fey Bebe Marie crafts her birdhouses of bottlecaps and fills her crumbling walls with images and poetry: ""This is the orchard of abandoned dreams."" Weaving it all together is music: the blues, jazz, the river of sound and emotion whose current flows worldwide, with unexpected effect. Shearer (The Wonder Book of the Air) has crafted a lyrical, floating world of an imagined Delta town that could not and does not exist, but perhaps should. Her touching characters and the beauty of her language overshadow any issue of pacing or self-conscious preciousness that threaten it, often rising to the level of prose poetry. A must for readers of modern serious fiction; a joy to the ear; a return to beauty in literature; it needs only a true spiritual dimension to achieve greatness.
Reviewed on: 12/01/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 429 pages - 978-0-8203-2838-6
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