Have you ever had a tune pop into your head and then wonder where it came from? Or find yourself singing the same song over and over and over again? The plot of Lisa Tucker's debut novel, THE SONG READER, relies on the premise that those songs are not random, but rather that they have meaning just waiting to be uncovered if we devote some time to thinking about their relevance.
Mary Beth Norris has a special talent; her customers claim she is gifted. She can take the songs that are stuck in your head and determine not only what they mean but also why you repeat them. Her younger sister Leeann, the narrator, describes it best: "My sister Mary Beth was a song reader. Song reading was her term for it and she invented the art as far as I know. It was kind of like palm reading, she said, but instead of using hands, she used music to read people's lives --- their music. The songs that were important to them from as far back as they could remember. The ones they turned up loud on their car radios and drove a little faster. The ones they sang in the shower and loved the sound of their own voice. And of course, the songs that always made them cry on that one line one even thought was sad."
In their small southern town, Mary Beth has quite a following and makes a meager living from her ability to supplement her job as a waitress. She helps people make sense of their lives. She unearths deep-seeded fears, helps mend broken hearts, and brings families back together again --- all based on reading the lyrics the townsfolk bring to her.
"Sometimes I thought Mary Beth's gift would bring us everything," said Leeann about her talent. Little did she know that she would bring great pain before great happiness. Engrossing, lyrical and original, THE SONG READER, Mary Beth's tale, proves to be too telling. She uncovers a devastating secret about one of her customers that affects the entire town --- and nearly destroys Mary Beth and Leeann.
THE SONG READER is a clever story of family devotion and secrets, by a strong new author. Lisa Tucker is a writer to watch and will no doubt become a household name in the future.
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on May 1, 2003
The Song Reader