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Strum
Cover of Strum
Strum
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There are many ties that bind, and as many walls that divide. Music and deafness. Race and war. Love and redemption. Strum weaves each element together into an intricate tapestry of light and shadow, combining fate and spirits to define a family's legacy. In this magical tale, Bernard, a deaf young woodworker, is drawn into an ancient forest in eastern Canada by the spirits of his Iroquois and European great-grandparents, where a colossal 800-year-old cedar falls at his feet. Nearly losing his life salvaging a portion of the great tree, he crafts two guitars imbued with the spirits of his ancestors—lovers separated by tragedy, yet reunited in the music of these instruments.

There are many ties that bind, and as many walls that divide. Music and deafness. Race and war. Love and redemption. Strum weaves each element together into an intricate tapestry of light and shadow, combining fate and spirits to define a family's legacy. In this magical tale, Bernard, a deaf young woodworker, is drawn into an ancient forest in eastern Canada by the spirits of his Iroquois and European great-grandparents, where a colossal 800-year-old cedar falls at his feet. Nearly losing his life salvaging a portion of the great tree, he crafts two guitars imbued with the spirits of his ancestors—lovers separated by tragedy, yet reunited in the music of these instruments.

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 14, 2013
    Mysticism and natural beauty pervade Young's novel as different generations of a family derive spiritual direction from music. Led by a dream of a melody, Bernard in 1954 visits a deserted Canadian lumber town and in an abandoned church discovers a venerable guitar similar to one from his dream. Bernard's reference to "divine intervention" sets the tone as other family members find the events of their lives guided by the strum of fate and the redemptive powers of music. Young's intense focus on the natural world provides imagery of glistening beauty, even as the narrative pace drags. But her scrutiny of the internal life of characters makes external incidents seem less relevant. Solid dialogue provides character development, but the overall atmosphere of hushed reverence and the author's overwriting overwhelm the novel.

  • Kirkus

    A slow, sweeping family tale spanning continents and generations. Young's debut novel first centers on Bernard, a sensitive carpenter in 1950s Canada. Though he's deaf, he hears a melody one night as he slumbers. The haunting song leads him to a long sojourn in the woods, where he stumbles upon decades-old secrets. But he's not the only one in his family enchanted by a distant, dreamlike tune. The tale jumps back and forth in time and geography, with his family's story beginning in a French convent in 1859 and ending in present-day Australia. Bernard's family is carefully traced, and the relationships among its members are revealed in elegant, finely crafted prose. There's Adrienne, a French nun grappling with her vows; Isabelle, a young orphan who leaves Europe for Canada with a mysterious uncle; and Walk-Tall, a young Iroquois man with a tragic end. There are others, too, and their stories--illicit love affairs, sham marriages, mission trips to Asia--are set against a background of war, religion and, most importantly, music. Everyone is in some way connected to a guitar, either as a virtuoso or a child of one. Every guitar, it seems, is magical--when they're in need of comfort or guidance, characters constantly swear they've heard their guitar play on its own--and the instruments are considered the most prized possessions, worshipped for their sound ("angels and ordinary men wept from the sheer beauty") and sentiment. That adulation can be a bit much; some characters even sleep with their guitars like blankets, and one character's playing unrealistically creates peace between angry Nepalese soldiers and traveling missionaries. Beyond the power of music and the nostalgia of familial possessions, the story's progress often feels like an afterthought to Young's focus on symbolism. Guitars might be what bind this family, but for the story, they're more of a hindrance than an adhesive. A beautifully written, engrossing family epic that's a bit slow and tangled with its own literary devices.

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Strum
Nancy Young
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