The Song Reader
Downtown Press (Pocket Books)
May 2, 2003
Trade Paperback/306 pages
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"In the Anne Tyler tradition . . ."
". . . complex characters in unusual family dynamics compel the reader to continue rooting for this so-real family . . ."
In the Anne Tyler tradition of detailing the unique aspects of seemingly ordinary families, Tucker surprises the reader with the hidden heartaches of two sisters living by their wit and ingenuity.
Narrated by the younger sister, LeeAnn, their family life unfolds through the years as the sisters react in different ways to family tragedies and mysteries: the disappearance of their father and later, the death of their mother. Growing resentful of the overprotective love of her older sister (Mary Beth), LeeAnn wonders why her vague memories of their parents are at odds with Mary Beth’s.
Mary Beth, though young, steps into the parental role caring for LeeAnn and a baby boy abandoned by his mother. To augment her wages as a waitress, she develops a counseling service for dysfunctional people by analyzing the songs that repeat themselves in her clients’ memories. By word of mouth, her reputation as a “song reader” grows until she uncovers a past trauma that threatens a life and her own reputation, causing her to shut down, unable to fulfill her responsibilities. She is eventually hospitalized for months.
Unable to cope alone and fearful that social workers would place she and the baby in foster homes (and Mary Beth in a state hospital), LeeAnn searches for her father and finds more worry, ultimately leading to her unraveling of the unknown past.
The plot is more than adequate; however, complex characters in unusual family dynamics compel the reader to continue rooting for this so-real family, even after the last page is reached.