This is one of those rare novels that feels like it *had* to be written. As you read, you know that it probably wasn't easy to write.
It was most likely birthed with struggle, prayers, and hope. And you also know that is was worth it, because the story is so pure and precious.
The plot of this novel sounds fairly straightforward. Don't be deceived into thinking it's a simple story.
Rose Sorensen, a young woman with songs in her blood, visits a jazz club with her cousin Rob. Rob knew that bringing her to Calliope's would change her world, he just didn't know how much.
Inside the tantalizing atmosphere of music set free, the notes and lyrics touch her soul and make her want to sing even more.
That's when she meets The Chess Men. They are a mixed band, which means that in 1937 Chicago that they can only play certain venues at certain times, ideally with a white woman singer to accompany them. They are all fine men and excellent musicians, and Rose knows and recognizes them almost instantly through the music. Yet how is a Danish Baptist going to sing at a jazz club?
And from there, we have our story.
There's a lot of meaning to consider here, and a lot of wonderful men and women to meet.
Rose's sister Sophy- she intuitively understands far more than her palsied body will let her express.
Theo Chastain- the man who will not wear the chains formed by other's prejudice.
Nils- this young man who is in love with Rose. He and her share a past, their heritage, and many memories.
Rob- the cousin who pushes Rose outside her comfort zone, and helps her find her calling.
And the descriptions... I could feel the apartment shake when the El roared past, I could smell the sharp tang of smoke and liquor in the heat of the club, and I could feel the cold nipping my face as Rose pushed Sophy through Garfield Park.
Like the music that Rose and The Chess Men make, this story soars high, drops low, and stretches far as the plot unfolds, and scenes will linger in your mind like a last note played.
Thank you Howard Books for my review copy!
Karen Halvorsen Schreck's next novel, SING FOR ME, is due out from Simon & Schuster/Howard Books in April 2014. She is also the author of the young adult novel WHILE HE WAS AWAY (Sourcebooks Fire), which was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award, as well as the novel DREAM JOURNAL, which was a 2006 Young Adult BookSense Pick, and the award-winning children's book, LUCY'S FAMILY TREE. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize and an Illinois State Arts Council Grant, Karen received her doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She writes and teaches for a living, and she loves visiting schools and other gatherings of readers and writers to talk about her books the writing process.
For more information, please connect with Karen at: http://karenschreck.com/blog