by Gabel, Aja

Forging a familial bond over their shared artistic talents and secrets, four young people navigate a cutthroat world and their complex relationships with each other, as ambition, passion and love reinforce and divide them throughout the course of their lives.

Aja Gabel's writing has appeared in BOMB, The Kenyon Review, Glimmer Train, and elsewhere. A former cellist, she earned her B.A. at Wesleyan University, her MFA at the University of Virginia and has a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Aja has been the recipient of fellowships from the Sewanee Writers'' Conference, Literary Arts Oregon, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where she was a fellow in fiction. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

*Starred Review* Michael Tilson, the music director of the San Francisco Symphony, calls the great symphonies architectures of time encapsulating the insights of a lifetime; they are astonishing works that span anger and pure joy. This description also applies to former cellist Gabel's stunningly resonant debut performance. Her novel runs the gamut of human emotions, from envy to sorrow, joy, pain, terror, and frustration, as it follows the lives of the talented musicians, Jana, Brit, Daniel, and Henry, in a string quartet, the Van Ness. With remarkable assurance, Gabel takes the four through their shaky early performances and expertly ties their individual and collective lives together with generous doses of empathy. The singular motif that rises above all else is the encroachment of time, the ways in which we are forced to fine tune our lives to a pitch we can make peace with. "Time looked different when you were young, and whatever foolishness you engaged in was undiluted-there was always the possibility that the next promised moment would carry you somewhere else, always the possibility of more flames, more beats, more life. Time, when you were older, was something different, irregular." A virtuoso performance. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Eighteen years in the musical careers and emotional lives of the members of a string quartet."Jana and Henry met at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where they'd both been excellent soloists....She'd once witnessed him sight-read Stravinsky on violin while nearly blind drunk, and play it more flawlessly and beautifully than she ever could on a first go." Then Jana and Henry meet Brit and Daniel, and the Van Ness Quartet is born. Gabel's debut opens on the eve of the group's competition for a career-making fellowship in the Canadian Rockies. In a desperate bid to ensure their success, Jana, a girl with an alcoholic mother and a rough upbringing, sleeps with one of the judges. Rotating among the perspectives of the four musicians—Jana, the driven; Henry, the prodigy; Daniel and Brit, the on-again, off-again lovers—we follow the group as they mature as musicians and adults. Not much ever happens, but what little does is analyzed in microscopic detail, v ia page after page of exposition. For example, Brit and Jana share a comforting embrace. "It occurred to Jana perhaps for the first time why men loved Brit—why people loved Brit: she was able, in a way that most people weren't, to give and receive goodwill. In Jana's whole life, she could not recall ever having been hugged like this. This one was all-encompassing compassion. Brit was an equal planet to Jana, and the two of them were temporarily merging, gravities combining." So much effort to make this unimportant moment important, and to so little effect! On and on it goes—sometimes it feels as if one is reading the author's notes for the book rather than the book itself. An accomplished rendering of the competitive world of classical music helps balance the less-elegant handling of the characters' emotional lives. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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