Road trip set to music only the author can hear.
Pesky (and expensive) copyright issues keep trite song lyrics out of this debut novel—but not the titles. Idiosyncratic picks of 1970s and ’80s pop music punctuate the meandering narrative, thanks to a heroine who loves nothing more than a mix. Laney looks for answers, only she “didn’t know what the answer was, only that it felt good, right somehow, that all the feelings of listening to the records could be summed up by one small cassette. That you’d have a marker of some sort to show where you’d been and what you’d listened to, and who or what it all meant.” (Clearly, it also saves the author the trouble of actually writing about these things.) When her mother is stricken with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and must endure chemo and radiation, Laney’s family falls apart, kinda. And kinda not. Her father, who sells arty ceramics via catalogue, doesn’t really know what to do. The only place she can think straight is on the road—and now that her mother’s feeling better, maybe she’d like to come along for the ride. Laney will even listen to Broadway show tunes if it’ll make Mom happy. (Just why these are so much worse than such Laney favorites as John Denver’s whining ode to his first wife, “Annie’s Song,” or the more-whacked-than-thou Butthole Surfers, is not made clear.) Whoa—is this Graceland? Shrine to Elvis. Whoa—Las Vegas? Looks like a neon graveyard. Every place and every thing has a soundtrack. It’s like this girl she knew who lost her virginity to a U-2 song. Whenever Laney hears that song, she thinks of her thinking of that. And this other song that makes her think of her boyfriend Jeremy thinking of his girlfriend before her, quote unquote.