Reviews of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

by Dawnie Walton

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton X
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2021, 368 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2022, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

Book Summary

A kaleidoscopic fictional oral history of the beloved rock 'n' roll duo who shot to fame in 1970s New York, and the dark, fraught secret that lies at the peak of their stardom.

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can't imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar's amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she's finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal's bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo's most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we've not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

A brief audio excerpt from The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is available on the Simon & Schuster website (link opens in a new window).

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Dawnie Walton creates such an absorbing environment through the interviews and Curtis's editor's notes that she disappears. Curtis is in charge here, digging deep into music history with such skill and passion that Opal & Nev might actually have existed. And what makes this a formidable novel is that these voices, from the title duo to all those who surrounded them, are so distinct, so strong, that the reader gets a vivid sense of each one as they go along...continued

Full Review Members Only (792 words).

(Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Like the best fiction, [The Final Revival of Opal & Nev] feels truer and more mesmerizing than some true stories. It’s a packed time capsule that doubles as a stick of dynamite.

O Magazine, Most Anticipated Books of 2021
Walton's fabulous debut novel is an utterly fresh take on finding one's voice, on systemic racism and sexism, and on freedom of expression. That these heavy subjects don't weigh down this hugely entertaining novel are testament to Walton's deftness and skill.

Washington Post
[A] dazzling triumph...Walton brilliantly uses the unfolding story of the present to unspool the hidden story of the past...It is refreshing to read a book that centers a Black woman who has this many layers, a book that seeks neither to save her from nor punish her for the flaws that make her human...I am grateful for this fictional account, which gives readers the chance to meet an unforgettable character and also provides a lens for considering the real-world artists whose stories have not yet been told in a way that centers them or gives them proper credit.

BookPage
Music is at the heart of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, and Walton makes us love these musicians in the same way that we love our favorite bands. She uses this love to dig deeper, grappling with racism and other sinister themes to reveal the true essence of rock ’n’ roll. It’s not just about sex and drugs and parties; it’s a way to express the complexity and sadness of our everyday lives. Using music to cope is glorious and human, and Walton doesn’t just cope—she triumphs.

Library Journal (starred review)
[Opal] is a champion for people who have suffered discrimination, bullying, and marginalization, and she is fierce and sticks to her convictions, no matter the consequences to her career…Walton has penned a true wonder of a debut novel.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Walton's spectacular debut pulls off a polyphonic oral history of a fictional proto-Afro-punk performer and her white musical partner...Walton pumps up the volume with a fresh angle on systemic racism and freedom of expression. This is a firecracker.

Kirkus Reviews
Debut author Walton wields the oral history form with easy skill, using its suggestion of conversation and potential for humor to give her characters personality...An intelligently executed love letter to Black female empowerment and the world of rock music.

Author Blurb Ayana Mathis, New York Times bestselling author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
'Bold' doesn't even begin to describe it. Dawnie Walton's exhilarating debut is a thrill ride into the Afro-punk 1970s complete with a central character so unforgettable, you'll almost believe you've heard her name before. Innovative, sexy, edgy— I've never read anything like Opal & Nev, and I promise you haven't either.

Author Blurb Jason Reynolds, New York Times bestselling author of A Long Way Down
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is as musical and revolutionary in tone and structure as it is in content. It delves into the complexities of the creative life, specifically as it pertains to Black women, and instead of shying away or egg-shelling, it does what every good book does: tells the truth. A truth that bangs. That shrieks. A siren song to shatter what we've known of the novel. Things won't ever be the same after this. And I'm so happy Dawnie Walton has arrived.

Author Blurb Ta-Nehisi Coates, New York Times bestselling author of The Water Dancer and Between the World and Me
Dawnie Walton's The Final Revival Of Opal & Nev is one of the most immersive novels I've ever read. This is largely because of Walton's skill at letting so many people talk in so many different ways. Voices are marshalled from across America, and then across the Atlantic, and blended seamlessly into a tale about black culture, black women American capitalism. This is a thrilling work of polyphony—a first novel, that reads like the work of an old hand.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Black Americans in Paris

Josephine Baker dressed in military uniform in 1948In The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, Opal Jewel finds solace in Paris when her music partner, Nev Charles, has become increasingly unreliable due to an opioid addiction.

It begins at Versailles with a charity fashion show designed to raise money for the palace's restoration, where celebrity attendees include Stephen Burrows, one of the first famous African American fashion designers, and singer-dancer Josephine Baker, who is 67 years old and resplendent in a sequined catsuit and a headdress with feathers. By fall of 1973 when this scene from the novel takes place, the real-life Baker had been living full-time in Paris for over 25 years. She fell hard for the city in 1925 when she first performed there. Just 19 years old at the time, she ...

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