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Let It Be Paperback – May 8, 2013
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A coming-of-age novel that elegantly explores the human state of loneliness, Let It Be by Chad Gayle is a powerful story with melodic accents from the Beatles' final album.
After moving halfway across Texas in the 1970s to create better lives for her two children and to clean her slate while in the process of divorcing her abusive husband, Michelle Jansen finds solace in a romance with her new boss and from her favorite album, Let It Be. Struggling to get along with a nosy, judgmental coworker and dodging harassing calls from her ex-husband, Michelle's imagined fresh start is not as easily attainable as she thought it would be. She becomes especially distraught over her difficult transition into single parenthood when her preteen daughter, Pam, rebels by befriending a smart-mouthed neighbor and her ten-year-old son, Joe, betrays her by making contact with his father (of whose abuse he is oblivious).
Set to the sound track of the Beatles' album, with chapters named after songs, this concise yet layered novel easily weaves together the different perspectives of Michelle and her children and offers intimate explorations of their emotions and ambitions.
The chapter titled "Across the Universe," told from Joe's point of view, intricately captures the loneliness and confusion the boy experiences in observing the behavior of his mother and sister. Riding around on his bike in this hot, dry Texas neighborhood, Joe becomes angrier as his puzzlement over the divorce grows.
The longest chapter, "I Me Mine," narrated by Michelle, offers insight into a single mother's uncomplimentary yearnings both for independence and for a knight in shining armor (a part played by her charismatic boss, Dan). Other sections narrated by Michelle are particularly revealing of the chasm that can form between a parent and child while the family is in the midst of divorce. Michelle's focus on improving her children's lives by becoming a wage earner and by encouraging her children to make friends results only in distancing her from their most important need namely, emotional support.
Though some readers may be left wanting when it comes to the story of thirteen-year-old Pam and her role in the unfolding of the plot, others may appreciate the mystery she adds to the story. She does not narrate much of the novel, and her brooding presence is elusive. Yet while she does not participate heavily in the story line revolving around the conniving between Joe and their father, events would not unfold in the same way without her.
Overall, Gayle succeeds in creating a unique and transcendent narrative out of a not-so-original premise. The actions of the multidimensional characters, carried out in a realistic setting, illuminate the demolition of family as a result of violence and abuse, the consequences of misguided priorities, and the destructive power of a child's ignorance. --Aimee Jordin, Foreword Reviews
Broadway World, Book Reviews
I've been a Beatles fan since that Sunday night in February, 1964, when they changed the world on The Ed Sullivan Show. Actually, I was a fan before then, because I'd been waiting weeks to see them perform live, even if it was only on a small, black & white TV at my grandmother's house. It would be a couple more years before I saw them in person.
So I was intrigued by the premise of Chad Gayle's Let It Be, which shares a title with the last album released by the Fab Four.
A woman who has suffered years of abuse has found the courage to divorce, taking her two kids with her to Amarillo to begin a new life. She takes a low-level job and prays her ex-husband will stop harassing her. And during that hot summer, when folks cooled off with an icy Tab while watching "The Love Boat", she manages to find a little hope.
Let It Be is Michelle's favorite album, and how the men in her life relate to it--and her--shapes this sometimes sweet, sometimes painful story.
Letting it be is something that does not come naturally for the characters in this book. More than one refuses to back down emotionally or physically. And that leads to a tragedy that no one could've foreseen: a tragedy that changes everyone forever.
Gayle tells the story from different points of view, so that the reader can understand the faults and strengths of each character. Only the daughter gets short shrift; she always seems to be off with a girlfriend or just being a typical, whiny teenager.
This is a book with a soundtrack that plays in the background: not just those that name each chapter ("Across the Universe", "One After 909", "Get Back", "I Me Mine") but the songs playing on the car radio in Amarillo, Texas, the setting of this lovely first novel: "Jackie Blue", "You're So Vain", "Rocket Man".
Gayle skillfully evokes time and place, not just through the music you find yourself humming as you read, but the little things that make you feel you're part of their world in 1979: a teenager wearing a KISS t-shirt, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley.
I found myself emotionally invested in the characters. I cared what happened to them (though I did wish harm would come to one or two). It was not the ending I'd hoped for, but it made sense. It just made me long for an ending where they would've all just let it be. --Victoria Noe, Broadway World
About the Author
Chad Gayle is a photographer and writer who has written for literary journals, trade publications, and newspapers. Previously, Chad worked for Poetry Magazine in Chicago and taught English at several colleges including Texas A&M University. Born in Texas, Chad lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and two children; Let It Be is his debut novel.
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I found the shift of perspectives annoying. The shifts were short and although I suppose having the separate voices were somewhat interesting, I am not sure they added to the story. If anything, I kind of think they were more of a distraction. I think that this book would have been better if written in first person, or 3rd person subjective. The narration was unique, I will give it that but it seemed a little unbalanced.
I also had some trouble following certain scenes. This could have been because of the uneven narration, but I'm not going to blame it entirely on that. I think that it could have partically been because I was reading in the car and distracted by any number of things.
I did however like the characters. I wish there had been more focus on them, so the reader could get to know them a little better. As I was reading the book, I felt detatched from them, which was kind of a shame. The plot was also good. It was different from what I was expecting, which was a good thing.
I kind of want to reread it again, somewhere down the line...this time, I would probably read the novel while listening to Let it Be, I am kind of interested to see if perhaps listening to that album and reading at the same time gives the book a different perspective. I think also it would be good to reread this again when I have less distractions, perhaps then I can relate better.
In 1979 Michelle Jensen relocated with her two pre teen children Pam and Joseph, near her brother Chuck in Amarillo. The story unfolds somewhat predictably when Michelle begins dating her supervisor at her new job, Dan. Michelle is able to date Dan in secret with Chuck watching Pam and Joseph, correctly assuming it would be unwise for Dan to either call or come to her house. Gayle portrays a chilling, creepy, sinister look at Bill Jensen: who is unable to accept that Michelle and their children aren't going to return to him. Bill uses and manipulates Joseph to spy on his mother, and stalks her unrelentingly. The Beatles music serves to ease the tension for Michelle, at times she seems blissfully unaware of the danger she is in, distracted by her new romantic interest in Dan. Michelle is a good mother, fully engaged with her children, setting limits, and steady discipline.
The varying moods Gayle creates is really excellent, from the suspense of wondering if Michelle was going to be safe, as she was lulled by the soothing Beatle song lyrics, to the coming-of-age as Joseph matured. The positive influence of uncle Chuck, really focused on the importance of good male role models in a young children's life, especially when facing the changes in life related to family break-up and divorce.
Many thanks and much appreciation for the e-ARC provided for the purpose of review. Chad Gayle is from Texas, receiving his education from Texas A&M University, with interests in fine art and photography, he has also taught English and creative writing. He lives in N.Y. with his wife and family.
It felt like a realistic portrayal of what it would have been like to be in that kind of toxic relationship in a small town in that day and age. I was rooting for the protagonist, and even though the story arc didn't go quite like I thought it would go, I was intrigued throughout her entire journey.