Making A Comeback By Julie Blair

A romance delicately balancing despair and loss.

I absolutely adore stories where the essence of art is captured in writing. An Emergence of Green by Katherine Forrest, for example, revolves around painting or music; it pulses like a basso ostinato through Gun Brooke’s Coffee Sonata or Erica Abbott’s One Fine Day. Making a Comeback, by award-winning author Julie Blair, is a brilliant addition to this sub-genre of novels: It is a poignant story of love, loss, and love regained. Music—specifically jazz—is at the heart of this book, and the love of music and its beauty infuses every scene.

The death of her wife and co-musician, Teri, has deeply hurt Liz Randall, a brilliant jazz pianist. Several months later, her promising musical career is still on hold, and she can barely survive in the face of the staggering loss of the love of her life. When she meets literally by accident the mysterious and aloof Jac Winters, a friendship slowly evolves. Jac is blind and still reeling from a terrible loss in her life, even after years of living as a recluse. But their love of music helps both of them go outside their comfort zone and rediscover life, music, and, eventually, love.

This is a complex and multi-layered love story. Though unabashedly a romance, it is so much more. Blair dives into the depth of loss, grief, despair, and the guilt of her maincharacters and tugs at the reader’s heart without wallowing in sorrow. She captures with acuity the pain and balances it brilliantly with the beauty of music, good company, food, old cabernets, the quaintness of Carmel-by-the Sea, visual arts, and the steadfast guide dog, Max. She moves the story forward, but at all times, there is no easy resolution. The internal obstacles and struggles are achingly believable. She unveils slowly and inexorably the bleak plains of endless anguish and at the same time weaves into it rays of hope.And there is another theme she weaves into this as well: family expectations and finding your own way and place. All this adds up to a very rich, complex, and rewarding read.

The writing is masterful and paints memorable characters with deft and sure strokes, exploring internal and external landscapes with great attention to detail. The prose is complex and well-edited, and I liked that the love scenes are off the beaten, formulaic path. They truly capture passion and add a very special layer of tender love to this wonderful read, which may best be savored with a good glass of wine and your favorite music playing.

I look forward to reading more of this promising author. Fortunately, I still have to read her debut novel, Never too Late.