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Songs From Richmond Avenue Paperback – November 3, 2016
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
About the Author
Michael Reed is an award-winning Texas journalist, which means he has lived in inexpensive apartments and driven paid-for used cars most of his life. Experience as a reporter and editor, along with extensive, though at the time completely unintended research into the many facets of Houston’s dive bar scene, provided him with the requisite background material for this novel. This is the Southern Illinois University graduate’s first novel.
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Top customer reviews
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This story isn’t long, but packs quite a bit into such a small package. I can imagine this story set in any small local dive bar. There would be those regulars that have extremely colorful stories that are darkly humorous. The writing is unique and paints a descriptive image of all the characters in the book. Each one has personality and detail that many authors gloss over. His descriptions made it easy to visualize and even smell each and every one.
There will be a number of readers who will identify with the different characters and most likely sympathize with them as well. I felt as though I was getting a glimpse into someone's real life experiences, not the work of fiction. The journalist doesn’t even have a name, yet throughout the story I didn’t even notice. I made it pretty far in before thinking, “Hey, what the heck is this guys name?”
“Songs from Richmond Avenue” could almost be called a drunks love story, as the journalist finds himself wishing for a future with Michelle. He may not exactly be a romantic character, it’s love just the same. Throw in some depressing thoughts while mixing in some humorous parts and that sums up this story.
It took me some time to really get into the story. Michael Reed has a unique way of developing his characters that takes a bit of adjusting to. Once I got farther into the story and got use to the craziness, I was in for the long haul and wasn’t bothered in the slightest. This is definitely not a light and airy read, but I think that is part of the appeal. I had to read slower than I usually would have with any other book which made me connect with the locations and situations. I honestly don’t want to tell you too much, so that you can have the same experience as I did. The antics that take place are so off the wall I wouldn’t want to ruin the fun for the next reader!
While it did pick up later, it was a bit hard to get into at first. Many readers I know would put down a book they weren’t drawn into from the beginning. While I know that a slow beginning doesn’t mean anything, that doesn’t make you not feel a bit frustrated. I would suggest anyone who enjoys dark humor and crazy drunken stories to give this book a shot.
Their tumultuous romance begins at the seedy Relix Club during one endless night (it goes on for a couple of days) that carries the two through encounters with the bar’s regulars, the caretaking of the three-legged, mutton-chopped, stubby-tailed mutt named Strummer, threats from Michelle’s entitled yet deranged ex-boyfriend, the death of yet another friend, conversations with the homeless Ned and Bridgman, a twisted tale of what happened to the narrator over someone else’s gambling debt, and the regular and amusing reappearances of colorful characters with names like the Buddhist.
Beer and other spirits flow throughout and the reader is taken along for a ride at once intoxicating and engaging. At a core level, the story is the traditional guy chases girl, even as the guy’s shiftless friends and lack of stability make him feel unworthy of her. “Soon I knew she’d realize, whether she just knew things or not, that guys like me never completely run out of mistakes and that knowing guys like me wasn’t a particularly good career move either.”
Reed has a gift of creating ridiculous characters who are not caricatures. Because his narrator engages his quirky friends with an earnest familiarity, the reader finds their predilections and idiosyncrasies credible. Endowed with this surreal cast of characters, Songs from Richmond Avenue hums along on its own perverse, comic logic. “It seemed the only thing I knew for sure about Honey Sanchez was that her name wasn’t Honey Sanchez.”
Reed’s narrator stumbles through his misadventures, wryly observing, groping toward romance, with just enough self-deprecation and wit to make the reader convinced he has a real shot at finding love. He is simultaneously earnestly bewildered – “I never understood a lot of things less complicated than why people put up with each other” – yet surprisingly determined: “On the one side, the right of privacy, simple common decency and, of course, the law. On the other, doing what I wanted to do.”
Scene after scene delivers, whether it’s the trip to the Fiesta Supermarket or the time in the office with Michelle’s boss Abraham Wade. Filled with satiric commentary, Songs from Richmond Avenue has clever, interconnecting story lines that loop back around to each other. No tale is more telling than the one of Jonesy, journalist and composer of bombastically hilarious verses, whose fate serves as a revealing allegory of our times.
Songs from Richmond Avenue is a wonderful debut by Reed. He is an infectious writer who style makes the pages fly by. I truly look forward to his future works which I am confident will make me laugh and think as much as this fine novel has.
Reed has a way of lining up words on his pages and keeping the story flowing. Come to think of it, there may be a little Hiassen here, as well. In any case, readers of either of the authors I have mentioned so far, or readers looking for a new voice will likely find what they are searching for in this book.
Every now and then, I need a break from space men, aliens, and superheroic beings in fiction, and Songs from Richmond Avenue was a nice place to turn for just such entertainment.
Most recent customer reviews
Songs from Richmond Ave by Michael Reed is a captivating read to say the least.Read more
Songs from Richmond Avenue was a good read. Although it started a little slowly, I enjoyed the perspective and the characters very...Read more