Ayoung musician learns a secret that throws his life into disarray in Kozak’s novel.
Niels Larsen, a cellist, has always has wondered who his biological father was. He is stunned to learn from his newly discovered aunt that the most likely candidate, along with two others, drugged his then-teenaged mother and raped her. Learning he’s a product of sexual assault throws Niels for a loop, and he ends up dropping out of school during his final semester. He runs away from his family and friends in British Columbia, first cooking at a dive in Halifax, then on container ships. He travels to Seville, Spain—the hometown of his new work buddy, Daniel—and meets a man who changes his destiny. Tiago, an elderly busker, becomes his friend and mentor and introduces him to the world of flamenco (“The neck was warm and smooth in my hand. Despite needing tuning, the guitar’s tone was rich and darker than that of the others I had tried, as though it were coming from deep inside the instrument’s throat”). Suffering from cancer, Tiago leaves Niels in charge of his legacy, willing him some cassette tapes that turn out to be the only recordings of his original music. The author wisely builds her novel around the quirky Niels; he isn’t particularly relatable, but he is understandable. Niels had an odd upbringing, raised by his grandparents, both of whom are academics. A music nerd, he’s not the most socially adept individual—still, Niels is flexible and bold enough to handle whatever circumstances come his way, from fatherhood to creating a touring production. Kozak gives him the supporting cast he needs, including Tiago; his lesbian friend, Jax; and his ex-girlfriend, Aude. The book is well-researched and feels authentic. The satisfying story begins with Niels running away from a shock and eventually finds him running toward a brighter future.
An engaging story with winning characters and an absorbing backdrop.
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