Book Title: Six String
Author: Stefan Bolz
Editor: Ellen Campbell
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Available on: Amazon as an eBook and as a paperback
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Jenn is a sixteen-year-old girl who’s had a rough life. Her father is in jail, her mother is an alcoholic and her only solace is her music, playing her guitar and singing with her brother Johnny throughout her life to date. But when he dies and her older brother enlists in the military, she’s stuck home with her mother. Determined to escape her life and her grief, she runs away, out to pursue her dreams with a small amount of cash and her guitar on her back. One tragedy after another, she slowly realizes her music is both her salvation and her strength. Will she be able to fashion a new life for herself or will the world grind her into the ground with its cruelty?
Jenn is the unlikely portrait of a girl who tries to survive in an imperfect world, facing its dangers and its cruelties one chapter at a time. Her daily obstacles to living on the streets, finding food and shelter are just the beginning. As she makes her way in the world, she processes her grief about her brother with each dark encounter and it is insightful and powerful. She’s so well thought out and colorful, imbued with personality, that if she was real, you would want to give her a hug given everything she faces.
As she tries to make it through each day, she also nurtures a long-standing dream to make it as a singer. Her willpower propels her forward as she tries to move from surviving to thriving in her life, I cheered her on hoping she would succeed and encouraged her to get up when she was knocked down. And when she was knocked down, it was difficult, as I felt sorrow and sadness at everything she experienced.
The people she meets along the way are equally as colorful as well as caring. From fellow teens also finding shelter from tragedy to other musicians on the street to strangers looking for help out their fellow man, they also have journeys to travel. As their lives intertwined in and out of her life, they all have a crucial part to play on Jenn’s road in life to this point. I was particularly taken with Mark’s story and the emotional wounds he has endured along the way. How they helped each other was truly poignant and one of the many highlights in this novel.
Finally, the original songs Jenn writes are soulful and heartfelt, sprinkled throughout the book as song lyrics, punctuating her thoughts and her troubles. Can someone out there turn these song lyrics into actual sheet music to share with the world? They deserve to be brought to life in this way and be heard, with a rhythm and beauty all their own that carries you through the novel.
The story was so engrossing that I lost track of time as I read it, completely drawn into the story of this young girl who walked away from her tragic life and risked it all to pursue her dreams. It’s an unforgettable journey that immerses you in Jenn’s life and experiences it through her eyes, the visceral fears, the joy of ultimate happiness and everything in-between.
I’ve read some of the author’s novels and short stories before and the qualities that always draw me into his work remain the same: strong characters on difficult journeys, in both a literal and a figurative sense. Internally, his characters glow with an inner life, an undeniable authenticity, and dialogue that superbly illustrates all of this.
Jenn, like many other protagonists written by the author, has a damaged psyche and struggles with it through a complicated emotional process, muddling her way through like so many of us do, figuring it out along the way. This process of describing emotions and piecing together the coping skills to nourish and heal her soul makes for an impressive novel and is one of the author’s signature strengths. It’s also one of the best stories I’ve read by the author to date.
This novel pulls your heartstrings in all the right places, demonstrating how the power of dreams can sustain you through the worst life can offer. It carries you on a ride through danger and despair as well as hope, stirring your soul and singing right to your heart with its universal truths about life, love, and pain. You can’t help but be moved by the story of this strong-willed and plucky teenager, her passion for music and her expressive songs that follow you long after you’ve finished the novel, leaving a strong emotional resonance in its wake.
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories by Stefan Bolz include “The White Dragon Omnibus“.