84-year-old jazz pianist Oliver Pleasant is performing for his last five night stand before retirement. His career started at age 14 in 1935 when he lived in Winona, Mississippi. His career took him to Memphis and riverboats, to Harlem, to New Orleans, to France. Music was a harsh mistress, demanding awful sacrifices. His wife Francesca and their children lived without his presence. Now his wife is gone and his daughter won't see him. Nostalgia and regret, loneliness and loss, fatigue and pain are left behind when he plays. He is twenty-five again as he calls out tunes by Monk, Basie, King Oliver.
Agnes learned to love jazz sitting side-by-side with her father at the piano. She is twenty-two but is losing control of her hand, is in constant pain, and knows her days are limited. She has come from Winona to NYC hoping a doctor can solve the mystery of her body. Bridges daily tempt her to make her own solution. She has come to the club to see Oliver play his last five night stand.
Also drawn to the club is Frank, who at forty-four is an out of work Memphis journalist writing a free lance story on Oliver's last five night stand. Frank is floundering, uncertain of his career, his wife seeming more distant the harder they try to get pregnant. Will he lose everything?
Oliver "tinkers" on the keys. In an almost organic growth the notes turn into a melody. His hands fly across the keys, stunning even the band into awe. The audience realize they are witnessing something beyond their ken.
On the stairs of Oliver's apartment waits a ten year old boy. He has listened to Oliver's music through the floor boards. He wants to learn to play. He wants music to save him.
The power of music permeates Five Night Stand by Richard J. Alley as it does his character's lives.
Oliver is a wonderful character, imperfect and driven. I enjoyed this book, the characters, and especially the love of music that permeates the pages. The writing near the end gets a little obvious, the authorial voice a little preachy. By then I was too invested in the characters to mind too much.
Oliver tells Pablo to find whatever makes you whole. For Oliver it was his music.
I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
NOTE: Today, May 12, you can purchase this book on Kindle for $3.99 on Amazon.
Five Night Stand
by Richard J. Alley
Lake Union Publishing
Publication date May 12, 2015
$14.95 paper back