In Burger’s novel, the successful daughter of a country-music legend returns to her Tennessee home and realizes she has more in common with her dysfunctional family than she thought.
Haley Emerson moved to New York to distance herself from her hard-living Nashville roots and to prove there was more in her blood than bourbon and guitar licks. It worked—until she went home for Christmas to find her estranged father back in the picture and her diverse siblings and hard-as-stone Southern “Momma” struggling with the implications. The initial result is the expected one: Haley, the Wall Street wunderkind, deals with stressors just as her father would, and it isn’t long before her job and drinking become part of the problem. While the themes lean toward the typical (big city vs. country, money vs. morality), the author’s tight, smart prose allows them to bloom with a depth and wit lacking in many similar setups. Yet, as a former TV writer, Burger occasionally falls into the traps of screenwriting. Her visual narration, though not utilitarian by any means, has a tendency to jump quickly between scenes. That said, the subplots to which it jumps—those involving siblings and friends—remain compelling enough to complement Haley’s personal struggles, revelations and revolutions. What ultimately drives the narrative’s success is the author’s patience and attention to detail. Burger, who has experience both in finance and country music, builds believable backdrops of New York’s financial district and Nashville’s Music Row. So, like a good country song, it’s not the dysfunction, abuse, alcohol, adultery or faith-issues that sell the Emerson’s struggles, but rather the three-dimensional world into which Burger inserts them.
Nashville and Wall Street provide an authentic setting for smart characters, tight prose and just the right amount of detail.