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Exile Music: A Novel Hardcover – May 5, 2020
An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Sweet Sorrow" by David Nicholls
"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read."—Booklist Learn more
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readers’ minds long after the last page has been turned." —Booklist (starred)
"Beautifully narrated...From the very first pages I was swept up."
—Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones
“Gorgeous and lyrical, Exile Music captures the delicate rhythm of one girl's coming of age while driven by war and exile. Heart-wrenching, tender and powerful." —Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee
“Out of this this little-known corner of history, Steil offers a beautiful meditation on the things we all hold dear - family, friendship, home. My Beautiful Friend meets The Pianist in this elegant symphony of a novel.”
—Ruth Gilligan, author of Nine Folds Makes a Paper Swan
“This riveting, elegantly rendered coming-of-age story sheds light on the community of Jewish refugees who found sanctuary in La Paz, Bolivia. With vivid historical details and unforgettable characters, Exile Music captures the heartbreak of exile, the painful scars of survival, and the redemptive power of art.”
—Amy Gottlieb, author of The Beautiful Possible
“A celebration of the redemptive power of love, art and music in the face of the cataclysms of history, this novel weaves a powerful spell. I fell in love with Orly, a keeper of secrets and stories, who holds her family together by force of will when it seems certain they will fray apart. In prose of vivid beauty and lyrical toughness, Steil illuminates the life of the émigré with moments of unexpected kindness, tension, tragedy and triumph.”
—Ariel Kahn, author of Raising Sparks
"Jennifer Steil has created a world that is as fierce and stunning as her exquisite language. She dares ask the question where do we belong - and forces the reader to question our own conceptions of what makes a home. Ultimately, this is a story of a woman searching for herself following unimaginable trauma."
—Elizabeth L. Silver, author of The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
“Vienna, Austria and La Paz, Bolivia; war and peace; immediate love and mingled yearning; tangled desires sprung from single seeds—Exile Music is a magnificent exercise in connections among objects, ideas, and places that seem to have nothing in common, but do.”
—Beth Kephart, author of Strike the Empty and This is the Story of You
“Here is a coming-of-age book for anyone who has ever felt their world shift on its axis, from light to dark, from comfort to abject terror, from sonorous to sheer noise--for anyone who has ever had to run. A lyric and heartrending adventure.”
—Elizabeth Cohen, author of The Family on Beartown Road
“Jennifer Steil is a conjurer of spells and a resurrector of lives past. In Exile Music she brings to life a little-known chapter of a war that came to define us, & which were still grappling w today. This beautiful book is at once timeless and topical. A great novel.”
—Daniel Torday, winner of the National Jewish Book Award for The Last Flight of Poxl West
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I knew that some Jewish refugees had settled in Venezuela but did not know that many went to Bolivia as well. Their daring journey to a completely different culture and environment speaks to the fortitude of the refugees as they create a new life at great cost. Reading this novel reminded me to appreciate each day and to find joy in the smallest spaces. Life can change in a minute. Important history lesson for all of us in this well-researched and well-written novel. Definitely a book that will stay with you long after you finish the last chapter.
Orly, the young Jewish protagonist of this evocative novel will win every reader’s heart. The power of her childhood friendship and play with her neighbor Anneliese shields her from the growing tension that surrounds her in 1930s Vienna. Readers share her parents’ heart-pounding fear as they desperately seek to escape Austria after Hitler’s arrival. When Orly and her parents are granted asylum in Bolivia, her parents struggle to adapt, but Orly embraces her new life, finding joy in new friendships, and true value in a world so different from the one she’d known before.
With music as a leitmotif, Ms Steil weaves together places and people seemingly unconnected into a lyrical whole that readers will remember for a long time. This is a wonderful novel in which readers — and book clubs — can find much to ponder and discuss.
Exile Music is a coming of age story AND a historical fiction saga that begins with the whispers of WWII and ends in the mountains of Bolivia decades later, following a family who is able to flee their home in Berlin before the start of the war. It’s been ages since I’ve read a HF that felt so sweepingly full of character, place, beautiful writing, depth and a sense of fulfillment in the end. I cared immensely for Orlanthe, whom you meet as a child, and her happiness as she grows into adulthood. I also loved the Bolivian setting, which felt like a welcome change of pace from most WWII fiction as well as young girl’s coming of age and finding herself against the backdrop of war and upheaval... I highly recommend this one!
La Paz, high in the Andes, is a different world from Vienna in every way, but homesickness is complicated when the place Orly once considered “home” rejected them so violently. She must forge a new life, in a new language, along with the other Jewish families who settle nearby. The Zingels do this with different levels of success. Her father, Jakob, finds a path forward through his music. But her mother, Julia, pursues a destiny Orly can neither understand nor accept. Meanwhile, whether Willi is alive is the question that threatens to drown out everything else.
Exile Music is a coming-of-age story situated in one of the most horrific periods in history, and the place where Orly’s life plays out is as harrowing as it is beautiful. It’s hard to overstate how elegantly Steil interweaves history and setting in this novel, and how moving it is to see how rapturously Orly builds a life in the face of unimaginable obstacles. This is a love story on many levels, with a love of life itself taking precedence over all else. Read this novel for the gripping story, for the heartbreakingly real characters, for the voluptuous descriptions of setting. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year.