4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
If you're a music lover of a certain vintage, like me, you can probably remember plenty of those old one-hit wonders. "Black Betty" by Ram Jam. "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry. "My Sharona" by The Knack. Having loved the novel Band in the Wind by William John Rostron, I couldn't help but wonder if the second book in the series, Sound of Redemption, would live up to its prequel. In 1967, Those Born Free, a band made up of five talented young men from Cambria Heights, New York, played their first paying gig at a club. A short time later, four of the five were dead, and the fifth, Johnny Cippitelli, ran away from everything and went into hiding in the Florida Keys. Now, decades later, a priest rescues him on the brink of suicide. Learning of another link in the chain leading back to his old life, Johnny realises he must show his journal to Harriet Tubman and her son, Van, whose lives might be in danger at the hands of the same madman responsible for the deaths of his friends from Those Born Free...
With its compelling hook, I thought Band in the Wind might indeed be a one-hit wonder. Imagine my surprise when the sequel, Sound of Redemption, also hit all the right notes, ringing true to the feel of the original. When I learned from the author's notes that Rostron's original manuscript had been a single book of around 900 pages, I felt his decision to cut his Band in the Wind epic into two separate parts was wise. As good as it was, it would have seemed long-winded as just one book. In Sound of Redemption, Rostron set the scene with a neat recap of the first book, which quickly flooded back to me despite the other books I had read in the interim.
As in the first book, Rostron's quirky sense of humour, reflected in the playful dialogue between characters, lightened the mood of this otherwise serious, tense, heart-wrenching story. His writing remained addictive and strongly edited in this sequel, with great emotional engagement for the reader, a definite hallmark of the first book. The characters of Johnny, Riet, Van, and others grew still further, with interesting little plot twists and unexpected connections between characters adding to the tension and drama.
The ongoing involvement of Johnny's "Music Doctor," featuring song titles and lyrics which fit with the plot, was fantastic. I found many of the well-known songs nostalgic, as they had also played parts in my childhood. I'm sure they would bring back similar feelings and memories in any reader. As Johnny's journal entries drew to an end, the song he eventually chose as his "sound of redemption" was poignant and moving, a haunting and beautiful song in its own right. The author's notes at the end were interesting, including a list of all the songs featured by the Music Doctor throughout the two books. Rostron featured plenty of great music, evoking real nostalgia for those who lived through those times or a little later, as I did.
Sound of Redemption seemed a far shorter book than the original Band in the Wind, but as Rostron explained in his notes, he decided to cut the story at a logical, suspenseful point, which made sense to me. The only negatives I could find with this book were minor. The paragraphs were only indented by the width of one character, which made it a little difficult to distinguish the start of a new one at times. Also, the book had a few minor errors, mostly missing punctuation or an extra word not removed during editing. These did not detract from my reading enjoyment, however, so I rate Sound of Redemption 4 out of 4 stars. It is a tense, moving, character-driven story exploring one man's mission to atone for the wrongs of his past, plus his relationships with people and the influence of the music that shaped his life. This book would appeal equally to music lovers and those who grew up in the 1960s, especially in New York. It does contain some profanity, but it is appropriate to the characters and situations portrayed.
Sound of Redemption
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon