Under the Visible LifeBook - 2015
From the critics
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This is a fantastic read, a story of family, friendship, and the power of music. The strong writing and international focus of Echlin’s earlier novels are also found here, creating a captivating read.
Two women, Mahsa and Katherine, are both jazz pianists who create a powerful friendship through their commitment to their art, in the face of all sorts of family ordeals. Both women have had unusual upbringings; Katherine was raised by single mother in 1950s Hamilton, Mahsa was raised by her strict Uncle & Aunt in Pakistan after her parents were murdered. Early on, Katherine married another jazz musician and had 3 children in quick succession; Mahsa is forced into marriage with an older man in her 20s, and has 2 children quickly. Despite their differing backgrounds, Katherine and Mahsa have much in common, including their love for piano.
They develop a friendship through jazz when Mahsa moves back to Montreal with her family, and then meets Katherine in New York. They deal with their roles as mothers, as women in the man’s world of 20th century jazz, and as independent individuals in relationship with their children, lovers, parents, friends and more.
The writing is so smooth, their stories told in counterpoint, it’s like the entire book is jazz. The writing is deep but fast moving and the characters (even the side characters) are all fully drawn and fascinating. Music is the thread that holds together this thoughtful tale of two women’s lives. If you are a music lover or enjoy stories that delve into the deeper issues that shape a life, you will find much to appreciate in this book.
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