cover image Broken Chords

Broken Chords

Barbara Snow Gilbert / Author Boyds Mills Press $15.95 (192p)

Readers do not have to understand Bach or Rachmaninoff to appreciate the conflicts plaguing 17-year-old Clara, a gifted pianist favored to win the prestigious Nicklaus competition. Her mother, who conducts the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and her father, once a baritone opera star, have great aspirations for their virtuoso pianist daughter; the question is, does she have the same aspirations? Gilbert (Stone Water) divides the story into three ""movements"" that trace Clara's emerging doubts about becoming a performing artist. The turning point comes when a wrist injury keeps her away from the piano for two weeks. During this ""interval,"" Clara gets her first taste of how life would be without her daily three-hour practice sessions--she attends a football game, spends time with friends at McDonald's and (strangely) rehearses ballet. The climax comes on the final day of the prize competition, when the idea of giving up music for good begins to take hold. The ending of the book borders on hokey, and the characterizations of Clara's accompanying players are painted with broad strokes: her Russian piano teacher, the stage mother and love interest Marshall Hammonds Lawrence, a handsome boy from a poor background who possesses a passion for music that Clara lacks. The strength of the novel lies not in the too-neatly orchestrated plot, but rather in the heroine's in-depth exploration of what she truly wants for herself. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)