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Musical Chairs


Musical Chairs

For those who want their fiction to start with a huge hook --- a first sentence that grabs you by the throat and won’t let you go --- Amy Poeppel’s MUSICAL CHAIRS is not the book for you. Rather, this charming story begins like a lovely overture, an introduction that gets you used to the rhythm and feeling of the piece. Slowly you become entranced and rapt in the characters and plot of this beautifully composed novel.

Bridget, the daughter of a world-famous composer and conductor, is a cello player in the Forsyth Trio, a group she founded with her best friend, Will, after they graduated from the Juilliard School, one of the most prestigious conservatories in the world. The third member of their trio was Gavin, who left to join a symphony orchestra in Australia. Ever since, Bridget and Will have struggled to find a violinist to be Gavin’s permanent replacement.

"There is romance, intrigue, secrets that need to be aired, and an ending that isn’t a surprise at all, but rather is a lovely finale to a beautifully played concert."

After a quick 27-year peek into the past, the story begins in June as Bridget makes her way to her summer home in Connecticut, near her father’s palatial estate. More comfy than glamorous, there is a dilapidated barn, a guest house, a pond and lots of space --- everything that her life in New York City lacks. She is getting the place ready for her novelist boyfriend, Sterling, to come and spend a relaxing summer with her there. She envisions a romantic time, coffee on the porch, strolls in the charming town and a chance to deepen their relationship.

So it’s rather upsetting, to say the least, when Sterling breaks up with her via email. As it turns out, karma might have been at work because both of her adult children end up at her doorstep after crises in their lives have them running back to safety --- and to the arms of family.

Poeppel does a lovely job narrating the story through the third person points of view of not just Bridget and Will, but also their children and many other fascinating characters. We meet Bridget’s father Edward, who is London-born, aristocratic, charming, extremely wealthy and artistically successful. Marge was a nanny for Bridget and her sister Gwen, then for Bridget’s children, and now is the overseer of Bridget’s father’s estate. We also grow to like Jackie, who is hired to be Edward’s assistant. Not accustomed to living on an estate or dealing with the whims of the wealthy, she is feeling quite insecure in her new role.

In fact, one of the themes of the novel is that no matter how successful and accomplished one is, there are always insecurities that plague us. Perhaps not the lofty Edward, but the other, more relatable characters all have some definite frailties, along with numerous strengths. Bridget feels like she has never succeeded musically in a way that would make her father proud of her. She is lonely and wants a romantic relationship. Will worries that their trio will not provide a future for him as he must cobble together a livelihood with private lessons and studio work.

MUSICAL CHAIRS is also a lovely look into the world of classical music. There is romance, intrigue, secrets that need to be aired, and an ending that isn’t a surprise at all, but rather is a lovely finale to a beautifully played concert.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on July 24, 2020

Musical Chairs
by Amy Poeppel

  • Publication Date: April 13, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501176420
  • ISBN-13: 9781501176425