Two decades after his family suffers trauma, Max, the loving but remorsefully jealous older brother of a musical genius, chronicles the story of his dysfunctional family. In mid-1970’s New York City, Max’s sister, Kayla, vaulted to fame as a piano prodigy, holding both audiences and her family in awe with her uncanny musical ability and warm smile. But deep within her lie the seeds of destruction: the paranoid fear of being stalked by a murderous fan. This mystery explores themes of family dysfunction, mental illness, and the long-term effects of family secrets going untold.
“A captivating family portrait with an enigmatic piano prodigy at its center, Bruce Berger’s THE MUSIC STALKER sings. In arresting prose, Berger offers searing meditations on music and mental health, spirituality and Jewish identity, passion and anguish and fear—leaving the reader gasping for breath.”
--Patricia Park, author of Re Jane
“What drives the characters of The Music Stalker to their highs and lows, their togetherness and their times apart, is also what artfully holds them locked in patterns of an intricate harmony. The heliotropic center of this novel is desire: desire for the Other; desire for talent; desire to be seen; desire to be held; desire for safety and peace of mind; even the desire to be left alone. Bruce Berger exhibits a sensational knack for imagining lives, real lives lived with triumph and weakness, mental illness and ordered reason, as well as daily flubs and foibles. His skills make for a page turner, with short chapters like etudes that grow increasingly more complicated and frightening, studies in the annals of a family for whom specialness can be a curse; for whom an ordinary day can be a refuge and a gift.”
--David Keplinger, author of The World to Come
"Descriptions of Kayla's responses to her music, as well as her audiences’, were right on track, especially the sense of transport, the departure from her physical surroundings, that she experienced when she played, not just performing in front of an audience, but even in solitary practice by herself.”
--Don Greenfield, Ph.D., Musicology, Princeton University
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Average rating from 2 members
The narrative structure of this book is unique; I don't think I've read anything quite like it before. Each member of Kayla's family, including Kayla herself, gets their own POV, but Max, the brother, narrates in first and third person, with the first person section as a letter to his children. All those inclusions combine to make a compelling family narrative about trauma, guilt, grief, and hope. The atmosphere of doom and tension build throughout the story; you can tell that something bad is going to happen but you're not sure what exactly it will be or how it will happen. Kayla's mental state was well-portrayed and her downward slide was believable and haunting. Some aspects of the plot were hard to believe without more explanation. I also wish the portrayal of August had been less stereotypical. Even though most of the characters' stories were given closure, there is still a lingering sense of something being incomplete.
This is a gripping story of a prodigy and the sacrifices made by her and her family. The different POVs give a very rounded account and as such the story would clearly translate well to screen. In places I found the voice of Max confusing as he narrates in the first and third person. I found the character of Adel a little one-dimensional and her overuse of the F--- word seemed a little off - would a Jewish mother speak like this? Equally, would a teenage girl in the 1970s use the phrase 'I got this' ? Maybe this is the American context? I am a European reader and found the excessive superlatives a little jarring, but we Europeans are not as good at positive affirmation! However, even Max himself said he was running out of superlatives at one stage! Overall, an engrossing family saga with the musical and Jewish context added an original spin. Would love to see it on screen some day