Title: Play for Me: A Novel
Author(s): Celine Keating
Published by She Writes Press on April 21st 2015
Genre(s): Women's Fiction
It happens without warning: At a folk-rock show at her son’s college, Lily becomes transfixed by the guitarist’s unassuming onstage presence and beautiful playing—and with his final note, something within her breaks loose.
After the concert, Lily returns to her comfortable life—an Upper West Side apartment, a job as a videographer, and a kind if distracted husband—but she can’t stop thinking about the music, or about the duo’s guitarist, JJ. Unable to resist the pull of either one, she rashly offers to make a film about the band in order to gain a place with them on tour. But when Lily dares to step out from behind her camera, she falls deep into JJ’s world—upsetting the tenuous balance between him and his bandmate, and filling a chasm of need she didn’t know she had.
Captivating and provocative, Play for Me captures the thrill and heartbreak of deciding to leave behind what you love to follow what you desire.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Play for Me by Celine Keating is not a novel I would generally read. Now and then, I will read a book that brings me outside my comfort zone and I concluded that this book was going to be one for this year. My choice to read this book arose after reading the blurb, which I found fascinating. I was curious to find out what could inspire a woman to leave her husband of 23 years to pursue what she was convinced was a long-lost dream. My feelings on this book are variedI started out liking it, but by the end, it left me feeling disappointed.
The book is about a 49-year-old married woman who is experiencing empty nest syndrome after her only child left for college. Suddenly her life is no longer satisfying. She now has time to reflect on her past choices. She feels she had given up her dreams, which consisted of her passion for music for family. She believes she is living a life of mediocrity and she needed to make changes. To rediscover herself, she got caught up in the world of guitarist John Jackson (JJ) to the point of obsession. Nothing gave her life meaning like JJ and his music did. Therefore, she embarked on a journey that permits her to get more of this soul-stirring music leaving the life she built for 23 years behind.
First, I should warn you that there is cheating, so if this is something that will disturb you then it’s best you avoid this book.
I enjoyed the author’s writing style, which I found delightful and entertaining. The manner in which she portrayed Lilly’s journey of self-discovery and her pursuit of purpose was intense. I found myself glued to the pages as my curiosity levels kept spiking. When I first met Lilly, I was drawn to her, and I was interested in discovering what made her tick. Unfortunately, as the story evolved my like for her morphed into annoyance and by the end of the story, I had no sympathy for her. For the life of me, I cannot believe someone could be so stupid. If it were possible to reach into my kindle, hold her, and shake some sense into her I would have done so. Not only was she stupid, she was selfish. Her journey was one of self-gratification. Not once did she give thought to the effect her actions would have on her family. The only thing that mattered was
thefulfilment of her desires through JJ and his music.
I liked that she owned up to her mistakes, even though it was after she realised that JJ was not who she perceived him in her mind to be.
. It was good she took responsibility for her actions and tried to make amends for the hurt she caused, which would not be an easy task. The ending was not what I expected. The manner in which the story wrapped up leaves readers to make their own interpretation.
The story aptly demonstrated the consequences of making poor and selfish choices. It shows how truthful and profound the phrase ‘the grass isn’t always greener on the other side’ is. ‘Play for Me’ is a story I will not forget anytime soon and despite it being outside of my norm I found it to be an interesting read.
A summer picnic: The boy sat under a tree, playing a guitar. He had curly black hair and soulful eyes, and I was smitten – not with the boy so much as the music. His playing was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard.
Fast-forward many decades. In midlife, my husband gave me the gift of guitar lessons, and I rediscovered that early passion. I became, quite simply, obsessed, and the more I learned, the more fascinated I became, not only with all forms of guitar music, but with musicians as well — their lives, careers, conflicts, and creative processes. This led, in turn, to a new chapter in my life. I found a new avenue for my writing, and began reviewing music and doing articles for various magazines. And after I went across country on a “music train” (in essence a “moving concert” with several different bands and their hardcore fans) and had a front-row seat to some explosive romantic fireworks, the characters of Blaise and JJ began to emerge in my mind. But I didn’t yet know the story I wanted to tell.
What gave me the story and the character was a conversation with my sister. Her twin daughters were seniors in high school, about to leave for college, and she suddenly woke to the realization that it had been decades since she’d focused primarily on her own desires. Given the demands of childrearing and her career, she had failed to cultivate interests or make time for her friendships. She talked with me of her profound feeling of emptiness and angst as her children left the nest. She had thought she couldn’t wait to reclaim a focus on herself, but now she wasn’t even sure anymore who that self was. A big gaping hole cracked open in front of her. “Once they go off to college,” she wailed, “I won’t have a life!”
I also had an acquaintance who decided to leave her husband – but not for any fault of his. She talked about not feeling fulfilled, about feeling she was not living up to her true potential. She felt she was missing an elusive “something more” in life. And for her, only a radical disruption – walking away from her marriage – gave her the space to find a way to address this absence.
So the character Lily began to take shape in my mind, a woman who, like my sister, had a perfectly happy life profoundly disrupted by her child’s departure for college, and one like my acquaintance, who had left her creative urges long buried. What happens to dreams deferred, I wondered, to the parts of ourselves that are untended and lay dormant? Play for Me began to take shape in my mind as something of a cautionary tale about what can happen if you lose your voice through too great a focus on the needs and demands of others.
The writer Proust has called music “a dangerous intoxication” – and this was one of the strands that led to the writing of Play for Me. I wanted to explore both the intoxication and the danger inherent in obsession. So I gave Lily an irresistible passion along with its risks, and through the writing discovered what she would make of it and how her life would change.
Writing Lily’s story also allowed me to explore what it is about music, in particular, that moves us so. Music is often compared with a stream, in the way it ebbs and flows. Just as water trapped underground, usually finds its way to the surface, so too does the music serve as a metaphor in Play for Me, connecting Lily to a more authentic, earlier self. And since music taps into and releases carefully guarded emotions, for Lily it is transformative, a powerful catalyst for change. Because of the way music affects her, it enables her to confront what is missing in her life and to discover what she needs to be more creative and fulfilled.
In the process of writing the book, I finally came upon what it was I wanted to say: All of us need access to transcendence, in whatever form: art or beauty or nature or spirituality. All of us have within us a creative spark, and if we fail to tend that spark, our lives will be far less meaningful.