Who, really, are you, if you don’t know where you come from?
(from The Song Remains the Same)
Surviving a plane crash that killed 152 people and left only one other survivor would most definitely be considered a life-changing event. But how do you go about changing your life, figuring out what it means that you survived and so many other people didn’t, when you don’t remember anything from before? That’s the dilemma Nell Slattery faces in The Song Remains the Same. Nell, the 32-year-old co-owner of an art gallery in New York City, realizes that she wasn’t fabulous or fun, but she can’t picture the serious, hard-edged woman everyone says she was. She strives to do things differently this time around, and while she’s not exactly sure what that means for her, she is determined to put the pieces of her past together again.
She must depend on her mother, her younger sister, and her husband for these details. However, she can’t understand why her mother refuses to give her the information she desires about her father, a famous artist whom Nell idolized. He apparently passed his creativity onto her in the form of music, but for some reason, Nell gave it up. Meanwhile, Nell is committed to repairing her marriage, not quite understanding how her bond to Peter cracked or why her mother and sister can’t agree about whether Nell should forgive him. Nell also must navigate the minefields that constitute her relationship with her sister and figure out why the two weren’t on speaking terms before the plane crash. Is the only person she can trust Anderson, the troubled actor who sat next to her on the plane and swears she saved his life?
I really wanted to love this book as much as I did Time of My Life, but the characters just didn’t click for me. Much of The Song Remains the Same is in the first person, and because Nell doesn’t know herself or her family, it’s difficult to connect with or really get to know the characters. As Nell moves forward in her recovery and it becomes obvious that her family and friends are withholding important information for whatever reason, I felt just as confused and annoyed as she did, and since I couldn’t get a handle on them, I couldn’t like or dislike them and that ambiguity became a little tiring. I thought the plot started to drag a little toward the middle, with the truth about Nell’s past being parceled out too slowly for my tastes.
However, I still enjoyed The Song Remains the Same and think Allison Winn Scotch is a talented storyteller. She does a great job creating strong heroines with distinctive voices, answering tough questions about life choices and second chances in unique ways, and balancing the seriousness with some humor. Even if I couldn’t relate to Nell, I could empathize with her in her desire to be someone fresh and fun, and I was rooting for her to find the answers she needed to start to live again. It’s certainly a novel that gets you thinking about the connection between music and memory, how past hurts shape who you are, and that it’s never too late to change the course of your life.
Disclosure: I received The Song Remains the Same from Putnam for review.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.