Picks and Pans Review: No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain't Never Coming Home Again

updated 11/24/2003 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/24/2003 01:00AM

By Edgardo Vega Yunqué
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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In an exceptional epic shaped by the jagged rhythms of jazz, Vidamía Farrell, an Irish-Puerto Rican teenager, struggles to get her estranged father, Billy, to resume his career as a pianist, which ended when he was wounded in Vietnam. Jumping effortlessly back and forth in time, the author weaves in the stories of the Farrells' family, linking them to events ranging from the forced resettlement of the Cherokees to the first Gulf War, and to artistic figures from trumpeter Miles Davis to Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. Vega Yunqué's love for jazz and America's cultural diversity resonates, though he handles a violent episode with an oddly benevolent tone, and he tends to keep preaching after the reader has been converted. Despite those off notes, you'll be humming Bill Bailey long after the music stops.

NOVEL

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