- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (May 12, 2015)
Legendary jazz pianist Oliver Pleasant finds himself alone at the end of his career, playing his last five shows, hoping the music will draw his estranged family back… Frank Severs, a middle-aged, out-of-work journalist, is at a crossroads as his longtime dreams and marriage grind to a standstill… And piano prodigy Agnes Cassady is desperately grasping for fulfillment before a debilitating disease wrenches control from her trembling fingers… When Frank and Agnes come to New York to witness Oliver’s final five-night stand, the timeless force of Oliver’s music pulls the trio together. Over the course of five nights, the three reflect on their triumphs and their sorrows: families forsaken, ideals left along the wayside, secrets kept. Their shared search for meaning and direction in a fractured world creates an unexpected kinship that just might help them make sense of the past, find peace in the present, and muster the courage to face the future.
Buy, read, and discuss Five Night Stand
Richard J. Alley is an award-winning reporter, columnist, and editor from Memphis, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children.
Connect with Richard
I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember – I even think in music most of the time. My first instrument is cello, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate jazz, and, in fact, one of my early teachers was starting to teach me slap cello (yes, it’s a thing) before we moved away.
It should be no surprise, then, that I responded to Five Night Stand very favorably.
The plot, while simple, was captivating – three people brought together by music – all for different reason. The individual stories, especially those of Oliver and Agnes were poignant, bordering on sad in some places, but all three characters seemed to sing, their perfectly captured voices projecting far beyond the margins of the printed page. By the end of the novel, I felt like I knew these people.
The structure of the novel also worked: five nights, a finite space of time, but so much character development, so many nuances, filled those five nights. I felt like, more than writing a story, Richard Alley was conducting a symphony. A jazz symphony, with surprises of syncopation and deviations of meter that worked together to enhance the whole. Even the dissonant moments only added to the whole competition.
The language, though, is what hooked me. At first, like some of the other reviewers on this tour, it felt poetic to me, and then I realized, no, it’s not poetry, it’s a riff. It’s this wonderful booze-y, blues-y use of language that combines the sharp notes of New York with the softer ones of the South, where jazz and blues were really born.
Usually, when I finish reading a novel that I acquired solely for the purpose of reviewing, I delete the file from my over-packed Kindle to save space. Five Night Stand, however, has been moved to my ‘favorites’ collection, where, much like a much loved album, I can revisit it at my leisure and see what new things I find upon rereading it.
Goes well with: bbq ribs for an early dinner, followed by a glass of Scotch during the show.
If you live in the U.S.A. or Canada and want to experience Five Night Stand for yourself, leave a comment here on the blog telling me about your favorite musicians. Make sure you provide a valid email address (only I will see it) because winners will be contacted by email. Alternatively, find my twitter post about this review, and re-tweet it, tagging me: @Melysse.
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Wednesday, May 13th: Ageless Pages Reviews
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