Desert Isle Keeper
This book was so much fun to read! Amy Poeppel’s Musical Chairs is a delight and I highly recommend adding it to your summer TBR pile.
Fifty-something single mom Bridget Stratton is looking forward to a romantic, sexy summer with her boyfriend Sterling. She has escaped from NYC and is settling into her ramshackle country home in rural Connecticut when she receives an email from Sterling in which he breaks up with her. He’s talked it over with his ex-wife and decided that he and Bridget are in different phases of their lives:
“I had a hard but good conversation with Mallory, and she agrees that it would be best if you and I take a break…I wish you well, Bridget. Please accept my sincere apology and know how much I’ve enjoyed our time together. Your friend, Sterling.”
Bridget doesn’t have much time to mourn her breakup though because her twenty-something twins – Isabelle and Oscar – are both heading unexpectedly to Connecticut to spend the summer nursing their own wounds. Isabelle has just quit her job in Hong Kong looking for a simpler, less hectic pace of life, and Oscar has left his husband in DC after accusing him of cheating. Luckily for Bridget, her best friend Will is also on the way!
Will and Bridget met at Juilliard and have been two parts of the Forsyth Trio for over three decades – Will on piano, Bridget on ‘cello. They’ve had numerous violin players over the years, but none as talented, or as divisive, as Gavin Glantz – now a world-famous violinist. Bridget and Will need to decide what to do about the trio – are they getting too old for the unsteadiness of life in a chamber ensemble? In the meantime, Bridget’s ninety-year-old father is getting remarried and the Forsyth Trio is scheduled to play. Could Gavin join them or is there too much baggage to make that work? Will and Bridget have a great deal to think about and juggle this summer.
Musical Chairs is like a well-rehearsed orchestra crammed with delightful characters all playing their parts. Each character (and there are many) has a role to play in the novel and Ms. Poeppel does a masterful job pulling all the pieces and people of this story together. The chapters alternate between the PoVs of Bridget and Will and someone else – cleverly mimicking their trio and giving the reader different vantage points from which to view the whole picture.
Bridget is entirely likeable. She’s real – she loves her kids (but is ready to get her space back), has clothes from different decades still jammed in her closet, drinks a little too much wine on occasion, and hopes for a romantic relationship to take her through the second half of her life. When I read the book blurb, I didn’t imagine I would be able to relate to Bridget – she’s a classically trained ‘cellist, a life-long New Yorker, the daughter of a famous, wealthy orchestra conductor, a person who summers in Connecticut. But I did relate to Bridget, and I cared about what happened to her.
Will is also relatable – he worries about money and stability and past relationships – but he is optimistic and open to new adventures that life throws his way. He, too, is looking for a romantic relationship. But please don’t get any ideas about Bridget and Will as a couple. They are perfect as best friends and I’m grateful to Ms. Poeppel for celebrating their friendship and leaving it alone. Will and Bridget will have to find romance elsewhere.
There are loads of other characters and side relationships in Musical Chairs and that might be a negative for some readers. But that’s life – we are rarely given the opportunity to focus on just one issue or one person in our life, and this is a more realistic portrait of love and family. Yes, there is romance but it’s not front and center; again it’s just part of everything else happening to Bridget and Will. Romance, especially for a fifty-something mother with a career and an aging father, cannot happen in a vacuum.
Ms. Poeppel weaves the many different stories together into a beautiful tribute to family and friendship. She reminds us that what we are all searching for is love, and while friend and familial love are wonderful, romantic love is something else and finding oneself in romantic love is a spectacular thing. I found myself cheering for Will and Bridget and hoping that they both find the love they are searching for.
Simply put, Musical Chairs is a ‘feel good’ book. There is drama and there are problems to be solved but at heart it’s a celebration of love in all its iterations. Put this book in your TBR pile – you’ll be so glad you did!