Songs in Ursa Major

Knopf. Jun. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780593318621. $26.95; pap. ISBN 9781524712037. $17. F
DEBUT Opening in July 1969, this entrancing debut novel takes readers through the career of Jane Quinn, a young singer/songwriter from Bayleen Island, MA. Jane, who inherited her mother’s musical abilities, is part of a folk rock band called the Breakers. When the Breakers are the warm-up act for a local performance given by prominent guitarist/singer Jesse Reid, Jane’s career becomes entwined with Jesse’s. Fame awaits when the Breakers get a recording contract, but the band eventually breaks up as each member moves in a different direction. Jane evolves into a formidable solo artist, more strident in her lyrics, even as she becomes more creative and virtuosic.
VERDICT Inspired by the folk rock scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s (and reputedly by the relationship between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell) this superbly crafted debut novel immerses readers in a story of family, love, and music from the first page. Brodie makes a point about the destructive force of drug abuse, and bears witness to unsavory business practices in the music industry. This book would make a wonderful movie; readers will long for an album of Jane’s songs to go with it.
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