Gould (Let's Play Ball, 2010, etc.) tells the story of three young women caught up in the turbulent rock-music scene of the late 1960s.
Candy Collins, Hope Witmer, and Theda Brooks are high school students in suburban Maryland who witness the beginnings of a student rock band called Homegrown. Preston Andrews, the brash leader, plays guitar; the more reserved Neal McNab plays electric piano; and football player Brad Callahan plays drums before he’s replaced by Clive O’Dell. After the band receives an invitation from Apple Studios to audition, the girls accompany them to London. Shy, bookish Candy sees the trip as a chance to get closer to Preston, while Hope and Theda see it as an adventure with their boyfriends, Neal and Clive. Apple Studios is in disarray, but the band plays backup there for a famous folk singer, Ty Leahy, morphing his acoustic sound into something more electric; the girls also finally get a chance to help with the songs. The band renames itself AMO and opens a show for the darker, edgier band JPJ. After disaster ensues, they flee to Clive’s cousin’s commune in northern Scotland. The cousin, Father Flanagan, is a radical, pacifist priest who engages their spiritual sides. He officiates the couples’ marriages before the band tries to make it big in Los Angeles, where they connect with “Pretty Boy” Floyd Worth, a radical UCLA professor who’s also the promoter of a big music festival. Gould mostly does a fine job of keeping the plot fast-paced and engaging, with plenty of plot twists along the way. However, the characters could have been more fully developed and given more complex motivations. The prose is very dialogue-heavy, which sometimes bogs down the story. Era-specific details provide nice touches, but Gould’s descriptions often don’t give readers a clear sense of place, despite the diversity of locales. The reverence that the characters all have for music, however, is infectious, and it will likely be enough to keep most readers engaged with this novel until its end.
A loving, if uneven, tribute to an era that may resonate with readers who wish to return to its heady, idealistic days.