Raised on the road with vaudevillian parents and gifted with a golden voice, young Teresa LeClair sets out to “shoot for the stars—or die trying” in Ketchum’s newest historical novel.
Though Resa longs for fame and the bright lights of the stage, her French-Canadian father has other plans. He expects the 15-year-old white girl to put her perfect pitch to work at the Estey organ factory in Brattleboro, Vermont. Victory in a local singing competition and taunting encouragement from a young African-American tap dancer, Pietro Jones, compel Teresa to run away to New York City rather than settle for a life in the tuning rooms of Estey. Restrictions on young performers as well as the specter of segregation and racial inequality are consistent trials throughout the story. Discussion of the practice of blackface will likely give some readers pause. The pace is quick, but at times it’s to the detriment of narrative flow, as readers must pause to recalibrate how they arrived at many plot points. Many characters come and go without much development, as if plugged in simply to fill holes, but this also serves to illustrate the transient nature of life in the theater.
A jam-packed ride through early-20th-century performance culture, if one can hold on. (list of songs, author’s note, glossary, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 12-16)