In his ambitious debut, Gallaway jumps backward and forward in time between two cities, spiraling in on four characters connected by music: Lucien, an opera singer coming-of-age in mid-19th-century Paris; Anna, an opera singer reaching the height of her career in 1960s New York; Maria, an extraordinarily promising young singer but a difficult student; and Martin, an aging lawyer whose love of music might save his life. The ties between them are at first so tenuous that readers may wonder when, how, or if their narratives will converge. But Wagner's Tristan and Isolde touches each in some way, as does, eventually, eternal life, a device that allows Gallaway to chronicle 1860s Paris and 1960s New York through the eyes of one character. Gallaway, a former musician, gives music a literary presence, intertwining opera and punk by illuminating their shared passion and chaos. But ambition sometimes gives way to pretension (particularly with chapter titles such as "Fashion Is a Canon for this Dialect Also") and purple prose, but the story remains grounded by characters grappling with love, in some cases for eternity - Publishers WeeklyI was intrigued with an opera being the center of a book's plot. As I read this book, I was impressed with how the author moved between the different stories, but still "moved" the overall plot forward. All of the characters seemed not to care about the consequences of their actions, but simply lived life to the fullest.
Gallaway's portrayal of the typical New Yorker reacting to the events of 9/11 through Martin definitely resonated with me. While I wasn't in New York that day, I lived in within an hour of the city at the time of the attacks. I saw many of my coworkers and friends react and try to cope with the what happened that morning.
I had a hard time relating to Anna and felt that she was the least developed character. I expected to learn more about her as the book progressed. Maria was an interesting character, but continued to be troubled even as an adult.
Lucien provided a good perspecive on life in a different century and how the focus back then was on different priorities - building new places and cities. It's easy to forget that the grandeur of Europe wasn't there initially and it had to be developed.
I found a hard time relating to most of the characters and found that if there hadn't been the mystery of the opera's influence on their lives I would have had a hard time reading this book.