Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The eight-year-old grandson of a black jazz pianist who fled America in 1949 returns to his grandfather's Brooklyn neighborhood, where family tensions still simmer. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

It has been a very good year for jazz novels. Following Jack Fuller's Best of Jackson Payne [BKL Ap 15 00], Marshall, the celebrated author of Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959), offers this resonant story of a family in turmoil over the memory of Sonny-Rett Payne, a jazz pianist who fled the racism of New York for Paris in 1949. The action is set in the present, as Sonny's brother, Edgar, now a successful businessman in Brooklyn, organizes a memorial concert for his brother and lures Hattie Carmichael, Sonny's former lover, who lives in Paris with Sonny's grandchild, back to the States for the event. The narrative jumps from the present, as Edgar subtly attempts to gain custody of young Sonny, and the past, as Hattie remembers Sonny-Rett, his music, his wife, and their unconventional life in Paris. Jazz gives the novel its pulse, but finally this is a family drama, and Marshall beautifully evokes the myriad ways that families are torn asunder when love and power intermingle. "There's all kinds of family, and blood's got nothing to do with it," Hattie asserts. Marshall makes us see that she is both right and wrong. --Bill Ott


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Marshall, in her first novel in nine years (following Daughters), paints a compassionate and satisfying portrait of a family trying to redeem itself after years of hurt and recrimination. Sonny Payne is a bright eight year old from a poor Parisian neighborhood brought to Brooklyn to visit relatives he didn't know he hadDa family torn apart when his grandfather, a jazz pianist, married his grandmother and moved to France. As Sonny learns about his family's history, he learns to care for its members, as they learn to heal old wounds and reveal long-held secrets. Marshall refuses to let Sonny, a normal boy who draws, plays, and yearns for a dog, become an icon, and she shows all of her characters the same affection and understanding she would give members of her own family. Marshall's renowned sense of place and ear for dialog make this novel a delight to read. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/00.]DEllen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion County P.L., IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Forty years after Brown Girls, Brownstones, Marshall's triumphant new novel reminds us why she is one of our premier African-American voices. Readers slowly decipher a two-family drama through the eyes of an engaging eight-year-old boy. In 1940s Brooklyn, well-to-do Florence McCullum takes fierce pride in her elegant home and daughter Cherisse, who has a promising future as a singer and performer. Her best friend and neighbor, Ulene Payne, a widowed West Indian domestic, is as proud of her two sons, Edgar and Everett (Sonny-Rett). She makes great sacrifices to provide Sonny-Rett with piano lessons, but he eventually rejects classical music in favor of jazz. As Sonny-Rett's fame and reputation grow, Cherisse loses focus on her budding career, and with her friend Hattie Carmichael, follows Sonny-Rett to his gigs; soon Hattie handles his business matters and Cherisse becomes his wife. Unwilling to endure their parents' disappointment and American racism, the trio moves to Europe, cutting almost all ties; each family blames the other, and a bitter feud is born. Four decades later, when the novel begins, Edgar, a successful developer, decides to inaugurate the new neighborhood music hall with a memorial concert in his dead brother's honor. He locates Sonny-Rett's grandson and namesake, now living with Hattie in Paris, and flies the two to the U.S. for the occasion. Ulene and Florence quickly become enamored of the bilingual youngster. His innocent presence, coupled with memories stirred by preparations for the concert, lead the surviving family members to reevaluate their relationships, resolve old arguments and keep the feud from poisoning another generation. Marshall writes with verve, clarity and humor, capturing the cadences of black speech while deftly portraying the complexity of family relationships and the social issues that beset black Americans. A surprise twist at the end brings Marshall's finely tuned drama to a satisfying, redemptive close. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved