Summary and book reviews of The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker

The Song Reader

By Lisa Tucker

The Song Reader
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  • Paperback: May 2003,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

She can hear the music in peoples' souls.

Mary Beth and her younger sister Leeann are trying to support themselves in their small Southern hometown. So Mary Beth works to make ends meet by practicing her own unique talent: "song reading." By making sense of the song lyrics people have stuck in their heads, Mary Beth can help people make sense of their lives. In no time, Mary Beth's readings have the entire town singing her praises, including the handsome scientist Ben, who falls hard for Mary Beth and her unearthly intuition.

What happens when she can't make out the lyrics?

When Mary Beth reveals a long-muted secret in the community, however, she turns off the music and gives up song reading for good. Soon everyone's lives are out of tune: Leeann worries she'll never graduate from high school, and Ben can't conduct his experiments. Without Mary Beth's music the town's silence is louder than ever. Could it be that all the lyrics to all those foolish love songs really aren't so foolish after all?

Chapter One

My sister Mary Beth was a song reader. Song reading was her term for it and she invented the art as far as I know. It was kind of like palm reading, she said, but instead of using hands, she used music to read people's lives. Their music. The songs that were important to them from as far back as they could remember. The ones they turned up loud on their car radios and found themselves driving a little faster to. The ones they sang in the shower and loved the sound of their own voice singing. And of course, the songs that always made them cry on that one line nobody else even thought was sad.

Her customers adored her. They took her advice—to marry, to break it off with the low-life jerk, to take the new job, to confront their supervisor with how unfair he was—and raved about how much better off they were. They said she was gifted. They swore she could see right into their hearts.

From the beginning, my sister took it so seriously. She'd been doing ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The Song Reader

Questions for Discussion
  1. Mary Beth was keenly aware of people's thoughts and feelings, yet she wasn't always able to transfer this knowledge to deal with her own situations with her sister, father, Ben, and even herself. Leeann, a teen with a reputation for being lighthearted and carefree, seems better able to address feelings and memories on a personal level. Mary Beth's secrets haunt her, her inability to deal with her own memories tortures her. How does this shape their lives? Leeann offered Mary Beth several opportunities to reveal the truth about the past. How would things have been different had Mary Beth been honest? Could she have avoided the breakdown?

  2. Tommy, like Leeann and Mary Beth's mother, is an ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb John Dufresne - author of Louisiana Power & Light
Tucker turns an engaging premise into a fascinating novel ... could well end up to be one of the summer's hot beach reads.

Author Blurb Kevin McIlvoy
A novel of remarkable wisdom and tenderness ... Every splendid page inspires courage.

Author Blurb Margot Livesey - author of Eva Moves the Furniture
In this sparkling debut, Tucker takes a fascinating premise—the possibility of reading the future through songs—and uses it to tell the absorbing story ...a delightful and engrossing novel.

Author Blurb Silas House - author of A Parchment of Leaves
... this is a stunning debut by a major new voice for her generation.

Library Journal - Patricia Gulian

In this incisive and ultimately startling work, Tucker very skillfully reveals the damage that family members can do to one another and the energy required to repair the damage—or not.

Booklist

Leeann is the perfect narrator for this engaging and bittersweet story of compassion, forgiveness, and the search for redemption. This is a wonderful first novel.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Tucker's assured debut novel is an achingly tender narrative about grief, love, madness and crippling family secrets.

Albuquerque Tribune

Tucker's first effort out of the gate is a clear winner. . . a literary sensation.

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