The film Crazy Heart for which Jeff Bridges won an Academy Award as Best Actor gave audiences a look at one end of a country musician’s journey. In this engrossing book Judd gives insight into the other end of the road – the first few steps in becoming a country star.
When a Kentucky radio station stages a country music idol search (think American Idol), one of Destiny Hart’s friends dares her to sing for it. Reluctantly, she does and wins the regional contest, propelling her move to Nashville to become a star. Much to the dismay of her retired Air Force colonel father, Destiny immediately opts out of going to college after high school in order to follow her dream to become a successful country singer and songwriter.
Four years later, she’s still a waitress at the Back in the Saddle Bar and Grille, estranged from her parents, and her younger sister Grace is a business major looking for her first job. Destiny is surprised one evening when Seth, one of the guys she hung around with in high school, comes into the bar with a group of young men. She learns that instead of becoming a baseball star as he’d planned, he is now a high school coach, and the guys with him are in a series of playoff games in Nashville.
Destiny is thrilled to see Seth, partly because he’s a reminder of home and partly because she had feelings for him in the past. As they get to know each other better, Destiny occasionally has a chance to open for the bar’s singer on Friday and Saturday nights. One night when the singer is acting more like a diva than usual, Destiny becomes the headliner and sings while a record producer is in the audience.
He offers Destiny a contract to record Restless Heart, one of the songs she wrote, and others on an album. Suddenly, her life drastically changes. Now her days are taken up with a manager and publicists. She becomes so busy that she realizes she needs a personal assistant and hires her sister Grace for the job.
Using the gentle, down-home style she’s perfected through her country hits, Judd adeptly tells the story of Destiny’s gradual rise in the music business as the young woman tries to balance her career, her burgeoning romance with Seth, her new relationship with Grace, and her wish to reconcile with her parents.
But as anyone who’s ever listened to country music knows, life isn’t easy, and there are always pitfalls to avoid. I got the feeling Judd had been there and done that, adding quite a bit of personal experience to her debut novel.
Destiny may not be the stumble drunk Jeff Bridges played in the movie, but she has her own mountains to climb before she too can feel comfortable in her own skin. Judd brings the excitement of possibly making it big time to those of us who have wondered what it takes to get there.