Rachel Joyce’s new novel unfolds in a place where everybody knows your name.
“The Music Shop”
by Rachel Joyce
Random House, 306 pp., $27
Author Rachel Joyce has created the equivalent of the “Cheers” bar in a record store: “The Music Shop” is a warm, familiar place where everybody knows your name.
It’s the 1980s, and sometimes people stop by to satisfy their craving for the new Michael Jackson or Genesis album, but they mostly are there for the companionship of a patchwork of disparate and unlikely friends who become family in every sense but their blood lines.
It’s worth noting that the store is located on Unity Street, which kind of says it all, and its neighbors include a tattoo parlor and a Christian-paraphernalia shop with plastic Nativity scenes and the like.
Unlike the famous TV-series bar, also from the 1980s, the novel’s shop is not in Boston but instead in a gritty corner of England. Yet the setting really could be any industrial city with its brightest manufacturing days behind it. Frank is the maestro bartender-type character who will listen and, more often than not, fix everyone else’s problems, but rarely looks inward at his own.
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Frank’s seemingly singular passion for music is what brings hope and life to the community. His store, with its listening booths made to move each of its customers on his or her own musical journey, is, for a while, even more of a local hub than the corner pub.
Music fans reading the book will hear in their heads an inspiring soundtrack that jumps from Aretha Franklin to Glenn Miller to Vivaldi.
Eventually, though, Frank’s all-vinyl record store can’t keep pace with increasing vacancy signs and, honestly, changing times. That’s when his disciples eventually rally to give back the unconditional love and kindness he has shown them.