by Lisa Tucker
Tucker's sophomore novel hooks you from the grim first line: "I know he's coming. His sentence was seven years, but after less than three, he's made parole." Narrator Patty Taylor has escaped her abusive ex and is attempting to rebuild her life, taking her young son, Willie, on the road with her as she travels the Midwest singing in a band. But now Willie's father is free, and Patty knows it's only a matter of time before he finds them.
The situations Tucker describes here in starkly lyrical prose are as chilling as if they were all derived from her own experiences—the author did tour in a jazz band—but she never gets too sentimental. Instead, Patty's voice just feels honest: "All those years with Mama had turned me into someone who could forgive almost anything," she reflects. "It wasn't about being good or kind; it was about survival." As she did in her 2003 first novel, The Song Reader, Tucker uses music to frame this story, and like a well-crafted song it builds in intensity until its explosive ending.