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A music teacher’s failure with her gifted student is the starting point for this deeply felt meditation by adult and YA author Hall (The Noah Confessions, 2007, etc.) on the demands of musical passion and human love.

<\b>Pearl teaches violin at McCoy’s, a music store in West Los Angeles that carries offbeat instruments and caters to musicians. She is a lonely divorcée half in love with the store’s manager Franklin, a musical purist, and pursued by the much younger fellow teacher Clive, a bass player. The novel shifts between the present, in which Pearl faces her limitations and overcomes her misassumptions about the men in her life, with the recent past, in which she found, taught and lost Hallie, the most gifted student of her career. Unlike most of Pearl’s students, whose well-to-do parents push them to play, 14-year-old Hallie was an orphan of meager means. She received a grant to take lessons despite the disinterest of the aunt and uncle raising her. Hallie’s natural talent and quixotic moods quickly captivated Pearl. From the vantage point of the present, Pearl recognizes that she invested too much of herself in Hallie, in part because, like Hallie, Pearl had faced great family opposition to her musical ambitions as a child. While teaching Hallie, however, she convinced herself that her concern for the girl’s welfare was altruistic. When Hallie came to Pearl and claimed she was pregnant, Pearl called the authorities on the domineering uncle she suspected of abuse. Then Hallie turned on Pearl, denying any problems at home and accusing Pearl of obsession and improprieties. No charges were filed on either side, but all contact—including lessons—ceased. Sorting out her mistakes with Hallie, Pearl re-examines her own relationship to music. Hall’s passion for music shines through—her rumination on the violinist’s wrist is particularly lovely—and because she never cuts emotional corners, there is nothing self-indulgent or sentimental about Pearl’s hard-won if makeshift happiness with down-to-earth Clive.

Presents music as a glorious metaphor for an approach to life.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-56512-463-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2008


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