A Tender Thing

Putnam. Apr. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780593084878. $26. F
DEBUT In Neuberger’s 1950s-set debut, a Midwestern girl runs away to New York to see her name in lights. Eleanor O’Hanlon is obsessed with Broadway musicals, and with star composer Don Mannheim, whose shows are grittier than the usual musical fare. When she auditions at an open call, she is cast as the star of Mannheim’s challenging new show—a love story about an affair between a white woman and a black man. The production stirs up racial tensions and brings unwanted notoriety to Eleanor, whose shaky relationship with her family is further damaged by sordid newspaper features about the show. Meanwhile, her world expands as she forms new friendships and romantic crushes that are different from what she first expected. This period piece evokes the golden age of Broadway, from an author whose own performing background shines through. Historical details are well placed, and the characters are engaging.
VERDICT While the writing is a little dry at times, the theme is sure to appeal to fans of musical theater. Readers of Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls or Fiona Davis’s The Chelsea Girls will enjoy, too. [See Prepub Alert, 10/14/19.]

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