Synopsis from Goodreads:
From the bestselling author of What the Wind Knows and From Sand and Ash comes a powerful love story about a musical duo who put everything on the line to be together.
New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing.
Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob—and Benny—would rather avoid.
It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist. Benny’s songs and Esther’s vocals are an explosive combination, a sound that fans can’t get enough of. But though America might love the music they make together, some people aren’t ready for Benny Lament and Esther Mine on—or off—the stage.
I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.
The Songbook of Benny Lament publishes March 16, 2021.
This book was excellent! Every time I read an Amy Harmon book I can’t believe that I somehow forgot what a beautiful writer she is. She continues to just blow me away every time.
The story is told through Benny Lament’s first person POV with excerpts from a radio interview several years later between each chapter. I loved the use of the radio excerpts to help tell the story and I adored Benny. I really felt like I got to know and understand him and I just wanted good things for him. I loved his relationship with Esther, as well. Right from the start, they had terrific give and take and there wasn’t really a scene between them that I didn’t like.
One big thing that the synopsis doesn’t mention is that it’s not just Esther and Benny performing. Esther is part of a band, Minefield, with her three brothers, Money, Alvin, and Lee Otis and they are all there for the adventure. I really liked all they brought to the story, especially Alvin.
There’s a lot more to this book than just music, though. It’s set in the 60s, with a backdrop of the mob, corrupt politics, and the civil rights movement. Though it all happened decades ago, it felt incredibly relevant to today. While the world has come a long way in some regards, it definitely still has a long way to go. I felt like Harmon had a lot of issues to juggle and threads to connect and she did a good job with it. If there is one complaint that I have about the book, it’s that there is a reveal to a mystery that felt a little anti-climactic compared to everything else going on.
Overall, The Songbook of Benny Lament is a beautiful book. I have read and loved many books by Amy Harmon and this is without a doubt one of her best yet. I’m sure this will show up on my Best of 2021 list. I definitely recommend this one!
Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars