4 out of 4 stars
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Tears and Trombones by Nanci Lee Woody is one of the best books I’ve read recently. The story is emotionally captivating and different from any I’ve previously read. Set in California in the 1940s, the story follows Joey, a young boy growing up under difficult circumstances who turns to music for a reprieve. His family life is far from idyllic, with a drunken father who is emotionally abusive and doesn’t care about what Joey wants and a kind mother who is too afraid to stand up to him. Joey’s father greatly favors his other son, John, who is older and shares similarities with him such as a love for construction work. Joey, on the other hand, has his sights set on becoming a musician.
As the years pass, readers watch Joey grow from a young boy to a middle-aged man, struggling against all odds to pursue his dream of becoming a great trombonist. From fighting with his parents to finding ways to fund his goals, his journey is an arduous one. He struggles for years between being with the woman he loves and the woman to whom he feels indebted for helping him financially. The road to performing with great musicians like Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash is not without its obstacles, but Joey has an unquenchable determination to get there.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars, as it is every bit deserving of it. There was absolutely nothing I found to be lacking nor any element that I didn’t like. On the contrary, there are so many aspects that I loved and which added to the exceptionality of this book. For starters, the characters are so believable and real, each with good and bad traits. I felt that the story was quite realistic, rather than setting up the protagonist as flawless and the antagonists as villains. Additionally, while some of the events leave you with a sense of horror and move you to tears, none of them felt dramatized, but rather like unabashed glimpses into the realities of certain lifestyles.
As for the writing style, I feel that Woody is an exceptionally talented author. She only includes details and information that is interesting and which brings the book to life. I was never bored and flew through the book quite quickly, not wanting to put it down. The plot moved at a steady pace, and I was on the edge of my seat more than once to find out what would happen next. The book seems to be professionally edited, with no more than a couple of errors not worth mentioning, as is normal in any book.
I believe that nearly anyone would enjoy this book, which balances the horrors of family life with the beauty of music. Music lovers in particular will love reading about the songs and musicians present in the story and the way in which music positively changes Joey’s life, albeit at the expense of certain other areas in his private life. I wholeheartedly recommend Tears and Trombones to anyone looking for a realistic, moving story about a boy who is in many ways saved by music.
Tears and Trombones
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