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From the author of I Was Amelia Earhart a luminous love story that winds through several generations—told in Jane Mendelsohn’s distinctive mesmerizing styleAt its center are Milo a severely wounded veteran of the Ira War confined to a rehabilitation hospital and Honor his physical therapist a former dancer When Honor touches Milo’s destroyed back mysterious images from the past appear to each of them puzzling her and shaking him to the coreAs Milo’s treatment progresses the images begin to weave together into an intricate mysterious tapestry of stories There are Joe and Pearl a husband and wife in the 1930s whose marriage is tested by Pearl’s bewitching artistic cousin Vivian There is the heartrending story of a woman photographer in the 1960s and the shocking theft of her life’s work The picaresue life of a woman who has a child too young and finds herself always on the move from job to job and man to man And the story of a man and a woman in seventeenth century Turkey—a eunuch and a sultan’s concubine—whose forbidden love is captured in music The stories converge in a symphonic crescendo that reveals the far flung origins of America’s endlessly romantic soul and exposes the source of Honor and Milo’s own loveA beautiful mystery and a meditation on love—its power and its limitations— American Music is a brilliantly original novel


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    An American Romance In Stories And MusicJane Mendelsohn's evocative novel American Music 2010 is a story of American loves American dreams and American music as exemplified by the saxophone the cymbals Count Basie and Billie Holiday The short book becomes far flung in time and place but the primary setting is New York City in 2004 2005 in the midst of the Iraq War The primary characters are Milo 25 who has received a severe spinal wound while on military service in Iraq and Honor 21 a dancer and a physical therapist Milo is in a New York City veteran's hospital where his injury is not responding well to treatment The hospital hires Honor to work with Milo's back once a week The therapy proceeds for about one year as the two gradually fall in love The book is recounted from a variety of perspectives and in many different voices as befitting the yarn like character of the storyMilo suffers from deep emotional traumatization as well as from spinal injury At first he resists Honor's therapy Then when Honor is massaging and rubbing his back arms and hands Milo begins to tell lengthy involved stories that get embellished as time goes on Honor too begins to tell stories as she and Milo connect emotionallyThe primary story that Milo tells involves a young man Joe who is studying law while working as a saxophonist in a swing band in the 1930's For Joe music is is first love and he will become a reluctant lawyer Joe is married to Pearl a lovely faithful woman who has suffered several miscarriages When Joe meets Pearl's educated and artistic distant cousin Vivian Joe and Vivian begin a romance The triangle gradually plays itself out as Milo develops his storyFurther embellishments carry the tale back to 17th Century Istanbul where an alchemist is shown to perfect the making of cymbals that will later have a strong place in the development of American swing Another strand of the tale involves a gifted woman photographer whose photos are mysteriously stolen from her apartment after she has been scheduled for a show at a major New York museum Still Milo tells the story of an Army physician and his estranged wife During the Vietnam era the physician is court martialed for alleged conduct unbecoming an officerThe strength of the book lies in the lyrical character of Mendelsohn's writing which often adopts itself in rhythm and language to her varied stories and people At its best her writing has a shimmering and musical quality Mendelsohn develops scenes and characters poignantly and in detail The weakness of the book lies in its miniaturism In spite of the author's efforts the stories to not pull together convincingly and they do not fully connect to the relationship between Milo and Honor The stories often take the focus away from these characters There is a sense of disjointedness when the different stories and flashbacks are introduced and thee stories and flashbacks don't entirely tie in with the story of Milo and Honor The sense of mystery and passion the book often conveys thus in places deteriorates into confusionThe book offers a picture of American romance and hope against backgrounds of loss and tragedy It emphasizes the power of music to the American heart Although marred by diffuseness and top heaviness American Music offers a lyrical emotionally bittersweet portrayal of American dreamsRobin Friedman