Posted by gaylistbookreviews
Title: Music Box
Author: John C. Houser
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 236 pages
Blurb: When bullies chase Jonah Winfield to the front step of Avakian Music, owner Davoud Avakian intervenes and offers Jonah sanctuary among the lush chords of the Music Box’s Steinway Grand. Jonah’s sexuality isn’t a problem for Avakian, but it’s an issue the kids at school won’t allow Jonah to forget—whether he’s ready to deal with it or not. When the bullying escalates to violence, Jonah’s favorite music teacher, Mr. Gaston, wants to take the bullies to the principal.
Speaking up for his favorite student may bring Paul Gaston’s own sexuality up for debate, and with budget cuts looming, he’s already on shaky ground. Forcing Jonah to do anything will only make matters worse. Getting Jonah’s cooperation requires earning his trust and helping to preserve the sanctuary of the Music Box. But the generations old music store handed down to Davoud is on the verge of bankruptcy. If Paul and Davoud can’t figure out how to turn the business around, everyone will feel the loss.
Review: A complicated and layered story full of nuance, the trials of growing up different, courage, strength, love, loyalty, family, pride, grief, hope, and falling in love when you’d given up believing you ever would.
Davoud is a very private, almost proper, old-fashioned gentleman. He comes from a family of passionate and talented musicians. He stayed home to run the family business and tries to maintain the family home. He loves making music and teaching the children in their small town how to play, he never wanted the nomadic and stressful life of the professional musician. He has accepted that he will be lonely and struggle alone with the occasional visit or email from his family.
Paul has some social anxiety issues and a desire to keep his life simple and within his comfort zone. When we first meet him he is in a panic about changes to his teaching schedule with new classes he might have to take on. His sexuality was an open secret and there was a sense that he tried to keep his head down and hide out in his preferred classes. It was great watching him grow and become comfortable and confident in his own skin.
Jonah is small, smart and an incredibly talented musician. His family had to downsize and move back to his father’s hometown when he lost his job. Being the new and so obviously different kid has made him an easy target in his high school where he doesn’t have any friends. It was awesome seeing him embrace his truths and accept himself, it wasn’t easy or drama free, but in the end we start to see the good man he is becoming. My heart bled for him and his situation, I was so grateful for the new family he found with the Avakian clan.
When Davoud’s family begins to come home for the holidays and decide to stay and be more involved with the Music Box, things start to change and gel. While there are adjustments and some hard truths that have to be spoken and old hurts addressed they become a family again around Jonah.
Jonah and his bullying situation was the catalyst for so much change in all of their lives. People had to make choices and stand up. There was a lot of growing up that went on and some serious bonding, new friendships were formed while some relationships were lost. Self discovery and new romance and always woven through, even in the darkest times, there was hope, love and family.
I always enjoy the depth and emotional connection I find with this author’s writing. When I saw this book I snatched it up eagerly. I felt all of that depth and sincerity and then things went a little sideways. I was reeling right alongside the characters and feeling just as sucker punched. The author managed to bring it back to a place where while things were complicated and painful I could see the hope and possibility again. This is not a book for the faint of heart or those who aren’t prepared to watch the voices you have come to know get pulled through the wringer. If you can stay the course with them you will find an ending full of beginnings and a solid and heartfelt story.
***** Trigger Warning That Contains Spoilers There are scenes of bullying, sexual harassment and innuendo, physical violence, derogatory slurs, depression and suicide. They are to further the story and are not gratuitous. ******
Reviewed by Nina
Posted in Nina
Tags: Acceptance, B List, Best Friends, Betrayal, Bullying, Career, Choices, Coming Home, Coming Out, coming-of-age, Contemporary, Crazy Family, Depression, DSP, Emotional, Family, Finding Yourself, First Love, Friends to Lovers, Friendship, Grief, Harassment, Healing, Heartwarming, High School, Homophobia, Hope, Loss, Love, Loyalty, Making a New Life, Making Your Own Family, Music, Music Store, Musical Instruments, Musicians, Nina, Passionate, romance, Second Chances, Secrets, Self Discovery, Small Town, Steinway Grand Piano, Struggles, Sweet, Teacher, Trauma, Violence