Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

I loved this novel. I loved: the tenor of the story, the structure, the pacing, the characters, the reoccurring focus on Yiddish and Jewish traditions. I enjoyed learning about life in Red Hook Maine and the story's grounding in family history. So much of this novel spoke to me, implored me to reconsider my career path (which I already do daily), to be honest, to love completely, to believe in flow and guiding points. I enjoyed reading about a University professor with a passion for her subject, two violin prodigies and a woman who discovers being a librarian is a perfect fit for her. I was completely enchanted by the grandfather character - Mr. Kimmelbrod. I learned a lot from reading this book - about classical music, violins, Maine, boat building. Pat Conroy, the novelist, writes in his review of Red Hook Road:
"Ayelet Waldman’s prose style is lovely and fresh. There is a brilliant scene that I’ve returned to again and again: The great violinist, Emil Kimmelbrod, finds the undiscovered talent of a small girl, Samantha Phelps, and brings out her instinctive mastery of rhythm, modulation, and perfect pitch. With language and example, Ayelet teaches me everything I didn’t know and can never know about music. It was like discovering a lost part of my life where I’m not only untalented, but unteachable. Each encounter of Kimmelbrod and Samantha in the book was exciting for me. Had I not read this book, I wouldn’t have understood that I’ve never really "heard" classical music before."

I agree with Conroy. I loved reading about Mr. Kimmelbrod and Samantha. I loved watching Samantha grow as a musician. I loved seeing her life intersect in surprising ways with the other characters. Red Hook Road is filled with human characters: flawed and real. I found myself in disapproving in some of the characters choices, but none of their choices were unbelievable. The story begins with a tragedy and while it is very much a story of grief and coping, it is a story of so much more.

This is a book I know I will read again, and enjoy as immensely each time.

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