Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Review: The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon (audio)


Title: The Songbook of Benny Lament
Author: Amy Harmon
Narrator: Rob Shapiro
Published: March 2021, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 14 hours 52 minutes / 448 pages
Source: Audio via Brilliance Publishing / Print via Amazon Publishing


From the bestselling author of What the Wind Knows and From Sand and Ash comes a powerful love story about a musical duo who put everything on the line to be together.

New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing.

Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob--and Benny--would rather avoid.

It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist. Benny’s songs and Esther’s vocals are an explosive combination, a sound that fans can’t get enough of. But though America might love the music they make together, some people aren’t ready for Benny Lament and Esther Mine on--or off--the stage.

My thoughts:  This is the second book I have read by Amy Harmon and she once again wowed me with her story-telling ability. I am now a fan and cannot believe I haven't read more of her books before now.

I have to say that if it were not for the fact that this was a bookclub pick, I might not have picked this one up because I am not much of a music person, but this book is so much more than just the music. It is such a complex and layered story and I was completely captivated by it. I absolutely loved how it was told, each chapter starting with a snippet from an interview with Benny Lament talking to a radio host and then going on to tell us the story.

This book is set in the 1960s and yet so many of the topics covered - love, racism, interracial relationships, family dynamics, the mafia - are all mostly relevant today. It's a book that is deeply emotional but also one filled with characters that you will grow to love. I could not get enough of Benny and Esther and even when I so disagreed with their actions, I still wanted more of them. They are complete opposites, Benny a quiet soul and Esther a little spitfire, yet together they are magic!

This is the type of book that you simply do not want to end because you don't want to leave these characters. I loved every minute of this book, as hard as some scenes were. Amy Harmon has created a story I know I will not be forgetting, characters that have a special spot in my heart and a book I will be recommending to everyone! And now I'll be ordering all her backlist books I haven't read yet!!!

Audio thoughts: I ended up listening to this one and Rob Shapiro did a fantastic job with the narration. It's the first time I've listened to him narrate a book and he really did a great job bringing this book to life. 


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