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June 4, 2010

Book Notes - Barbara K. Richardson ("Guest House")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Barbara K. Richardson's debut novel Guest House is an engaging read, the story of a woman who drastically changes her life after a personal tragedy. Richardson effortlessly weaves the story of this woman into an ensemble cast of characters with surprising humor and a large dose of humanity.

Lisa Jones wrote of the book:

"Richardson, who is part comedienne, part landscape artist and part Zen master, reveals the vulnerability of her characters with utmost delicacy... there is salvation here, and it happens in this addictively-readable and often hilarious novel..."

In her own words, here is Barbara K. Richardson's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel, Guest House:

I never listen to music when I'm writing, but it does provide solace in the between times, when the heart needs easing or grounding or release.

My subconscious tends to choose one song or one CD and ride it for years. It's almost a mantra, the soundtrack of progress through a particular phase in my life. In the case of writing my novel Guest House, Taj Mahal's Kulanjan served as the welcoming committee. It is by turns playful and soulful. "Tunkaranke/The Adventurer," sung so beautifully by Toumani Diabate, says "SLOW DOWN and OPEN UP, stupid," in the nicest way.

"Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova led me into the dark material. The sinking boat and weary voice, the cry for help, but I especially clung to the lines: "You have suffered enough and warred with yourself, it's time that you won."

"Where in the World Are You Now?" by Great Lake Swimmers pulled me back into the light. I love the simple flow of the guitar and cello lines. I love the repeat chorus. I love the start:

I've been looking in churches, and looking in bars
Thought that I saw you in the oncoming cars…
Where in the world are you now?
Where in the world are you now?
Oh, where in the world—

That mysterious question, posed over and over rocked me to sleep every night for more than a year. I couldn't tell if the Swimmers were talking about God or a lover, or the Great Mystery in between. It's sort of like writing a novel. Nothing's clear and it's all very fine anyway.

Here's my list of songs: one per main character, one for theme, three for faith, and then the actual soundtrack of songs that appear in Guest House.

Melba Burns—"Paradise" by John Prine

Melba is the eternal optimist and Prine's paeon to the glories of childhood days spent on the Green River speaks to Melba's daring to turn the Garry family dross into gold.

Matt Garry—"Roller Coaster Ride" by The Black Hens

Ten-year-old Matt contains his brilliance by living in his imagination, as his parents have so little time for him. I knew this peppy song was the soundtrack for my novel trailer/video, as written and performed by a friend of mine in Salt Lake City. Matt is beleaguered, but he's a red-blooded kid, and "it's that time of your life when all the colors fly!"

Gene Garry—"Bird on a Wire" Jennifer Warren sings Leonard Cohen

"Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free." Gene tries and fails and tries again, with some of Melba's optimism. A well-meaning drunk, he just cannot believe his wife JoLee doesn't love him.

JoLee Garry—"Hold On" by Tom Waits

JoLee never stops believing she deserves greatness. No matter who she tramples on to get it. With her "Monroe hips" and "her hair like wind," she takes and breaks hearts as any good narcissist would. Her "crooked little heart" speaks to all of us. Thanks, Tom, for the haunting lines, "It's so hard to dance that way, when it's cold and there's no music…"

Theme: Tenacity

"I Don't Ever Give Up" by Patty Griffin

For each of my characters, and all of their losses I say with Patty, "Love isn't here, love isn't here but it's somewhere!"

Theme: Faith

"Luck of the Draw" by Bonnie Raitt
"Jubilee" by Mary Chapin Carpenter

My niece gave me these songs on a playlist to help me survive the long writing days. Raitt's may be the only song ever written about the vagaries of getting published. Mercifully honest. The Carpenter song, well, I choke up by the forth or fifth verse every time, as it is pure kindness to the spirit.

"Lay Me Down" by Crosby and Nash

Talk about instant flash to the past, Crosby and Nash sound every bit as harmonically potent as in their prime, singing this cover of David Crosby's son's song. My sixth grade crush on David Crosby thrills in my throat when I hear this one. Feeling ageless once in a while doesn't hurt! "Even though it's hard to know just how the story ends…"

The Guest House soundtrack—music mentioned as the pages turn

"Mack the Knife," "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," "What Did Ida Hoe, Boys?," "Maybe, Baby," "Lay Down, Sally," "Up on Cripple Creek," "Hit the Road, Jack," Mormon hymns, "I'm in the Mood for Love," "Cecilia," "Pretty Woman," Mariachi music, Neil Diamond, The Monkees, Lovin' Spoonful, Hank Williams.

Barbara K. Richardson and Guest House links:

the author's website
the author's blog
excerpt from the book (chapter one)
reading group guide for the book
video trailer for the book

Bookpleasures review
Confessions of a Bookaholic reiew
Enduring Romance review
Just Jennifer Reading review
Laughing Stars review
Maxine Reads review
My Book Retreat review
Rantings of a Bookworm Couch Potato review
Rundpinne review
Story Circle Book Reviews review

All Things Girl interview with the author
The Cajun Book Lady guest post by the author
Minding Spot guest post by the author
Rundpinne guest post by the author
Wyn Is Reading books review

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly highlights of comics & graphic novels)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly highlights of new books)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists