In Edel’s novel, a white woman wants to be a great gospel singer.
An Episcopalian in her 40s, Marcie is hooked on gospel music after hearing a stirring performance by a church choir. She’s aided in her quest to sing by her Jewish husband, Zack; her son, Sam, who’s involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement; daughter, Marissa, an attorney; best friend, African-American Josie; and reliable Rev. Chaunce. Although not a “true believer,” Marcie wants to belt out a gospel number like the best of the black gospel singers—a dream that may be out of reach. As Josie puts it, “[W]e’re going to take a typical white, middle-class lady from New York and make her the top white female gospel singer in the world.” And if Zack’s “fair-haired shicksa” tries her best, he’ll be “the happiest Yid in the world.” Zack astutely tells Marcie of the historic Fisk Jubilee Singers and of the Fisk Free Colored School, wherein George White, a white man, was instrumental in promoting black music, including spirituals. Coach Joe Williams attempts to teach Marcie to feel the music, “swing her ass all over,” spread the joy and thereby transform the lives of “fifty too fat women who have nothing but shit in their lives.” The novel is an endearing, pitch-perfect, stand-up-and-cheer ensemble piece with a tightly knit cast of characters, some related by blood, functioning together as a raucous, supportive family unit. The mission may be important, but thankfully, no one takes themselves too seriously. Delivery is brisk, crisp and brimming with humor. Each character tells Marcie’s story (and his or her own) from a distinctive viewpoint, as the narrative torch easily passes from Marcie to Zack, from Josie to Chaunce, from Marissa to Sam, etc. Arguably, Marcie’s wattage is lower than that of high-voltage Josie, and the wrap-up doesn’t arrive as expected. Yet there’s a worthwhile message about hope, friendship, leaps of faith, and the chutzpah necessary to succeed or fail and move on.
A delightful blend of nerve, verve and voice that will hit the right notes for anyone who’s fantasized about a seemingly impossible dream.