Back in November, NetGalley and Revell approved my request to read an advanced copy of Erin Bartels latest novel, Everything is Just Beginning, which releases on January 17th. It’s a story set in the 1990s following Michael Sullivan, a talented lyricist and adequate guitarist, after that ever-elusive recording deal.
To say this opportunity excited me is an understatement. I think I grinned at the email confirmation, squealed, and danced a jig before downloading my ebook copy.
As I’ve posted (here!) before, I’m a huge fan of Ms Bartels women’s fiction, her writing style, and her ability to dig into the bleaker parts of humanity. Her latest novel harmonises the dark reality of Michael’s difficulties with hope, heart and the promise of a new tomorrow.
While I read about Michael’s shambles-of-a-life, I wrapped myself in a 90s cloak of memories which rose to my mind, awakening long-forgotten thoughts, factoids and experiences of my childhood and youth.
Music has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. Running through the lounge room with my palms over my ears, calling with laughter for Dad to turn his stereo down, or watching him fastidiously handle his records and create cassette tapes for general use. Listening to my sister play piano, flute or French horn along with the Christian music Mum played throughout the house.
I’m brave enough to admit I was that kid singing Sandi Patti tunes at the top of her young lungs while Mum navigated the winding country roads to my grandparents. I also blasted Tchaikovsky, Star Wars or Les Miserables at my desk whilst studying in secondary school, but favoured a range of Christian and secular music when distractedly cleaning my room (I cleaned my room a heck of a lot yet never found the carpet until I moved out of home).
I cherish music and its many types, tempos, and genres, and I appreciate the musical immersion of this book. There’s something special about reading a story where you understand the nitty-gritty details, recognise the artists and tracks, and fall more in love with the world of music and its exciting potential.
Among the music is a cast of relatable characters on different sides of the tracks struggling with their own issues.
Michael was likeable despite some of his poor choices. I sympathised with his plight and even understood the “why” of his selfish thinking. Deb and Dusty were an interesting dynamic of hope, realism, and mercy, shining their light in distinct yet powerful ways. And Natalie, tough yet fragile, her particular difficulty written so well. Her worldview was innocent, yet wise beyond her years, seeing more than Michael ever could.
Everything is Just Beginning is a story which sweeps readers to the past while anchoring its broken beauty to the here and now.
Have you read any books by Erin Bartels? Why not check out Everything is Just Beginning? It releases on Tuesday.
Until next time,