Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: Five Night Stand by Richard J. Alley

Some people live through music. It courses through them, leaking out their fingertips. They wrap their lives around it and it, in turn, drives their lives. So when it comes time to stand up from the keyboard or set down the trumpet, there is a poignancy and a sadness as if of grief. These freighted emotions pervade the whole of Richard J. Alley's novel, Five Night Stand.

Oliver Pleasant is in his eighties and his long and illustrious career is at an end. Drawn to the piano and the smoky, lush sounds of jazz from a young age, over his lifetime, Oliver has played with all the well known greats and is himself a jazz legend. His beloved wife is long since passed, he is estranged from his children, and it is time for him to retire down to Memphis to live with his niece for his remaining time. But before he goes, he is going to play one last five night stand at a local club in New York City and go out with a proper bow to the music that sustained and enriched him his entire life.

Frank Severs is a middle-aged freelance newspaper reporter from Memphis who idolizes Pleasant. Frank was laid off from his newspaper job, his novel in progress is collecting dust, and his marriage is so strained under the weight of fertility issues that it might not survive. When Frank hears about Oliver's final five night stand, he arranges to fly to New York to bear witness and hopefully write a saleable piece out of the experience.

Agnes Cassady is a Memphian like Frank and an amazingly talented pianist like Oliver. Only in her twenties, she suffers from a degenerative disease that is slowly robbing her of her ability to play the piano and ultimately of her life. She's traveled to New York in a last ditch effort to find a treatment that can arrest or possibly cure her disease and while she's there, she discovers that Oliver Pleasant is playing his farewell five night stand, a concert she must see.

The three characters are tied together by their mutual love of music, jazz in particular, and they connect over Oliver's final set of performances. Each of the characters comes into the story much like the band playing with Oliver comes on stage, one at a time, each of them riffing on their own before weaving into the larger tapestry of the story. Oliver, Frank, and Agnes all have extended and important back stories that are carried in their present and they are told seamlessly, another melody line in the overall composition. Each character carries sorrow deep within and the tone of the novel is melancholic.  It is a little slow to start as the connections between the characters build towards their coming together.  Regret and long held secrets infuse all three stories, creating an incredible depth of feeling here. The novel is very much like a jazz piece with the writing weaving in and out of separate stories that all come together to make one harmonious whole.

For more information about Richard J. Alley and the book, check out his website; like him on Facebook; follow him on Twitter, Instagram, or Google Plus; take a look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

  1. I love your description of the writing and storytelling as a jazz piece - perfect!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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