Winsome and wistful, Alli Marshall’s novel centers on a timid music journalist named Bryn. Guided by the notes she hears and the stories she pries out from behind them, she captures the unheralded artistry on the observer’s side of the music industry.
Bryn is haunted by “images [that] are fragments of songs that will never be sung,” most of which came alive to her via vinyl and live shows. She yearns to let the artists who move her know that they’ve been seen, understood, and empathized with.
Not all of the artists she works with are truly fellow seekers, but there are those who give her hope. Amongst them stands enigmatic, unobtainable Jude, who speaks of the methodology behind leaves and the loneliness of Siberian winters.
Marshall’s How to Talk to Rockstars pays melodic homage to all those who have ever tried to find themselves in the artists who move them. Bryn, while she’s composed, even a little dry, in her working life, proves to be symphonically layered, asking and answering questions of those who inspire her even as she crescendos toward her own opus of answers—less a collection of notes than an authentic path forward. This novel captures the magic of the perfect song that we hear at the perfect time, and it imparts a sense of the known even as it opens windows to worlds unimagined.
Michelle Anne Schingler
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