This first adult novel from short story writer and YA novelist Lynch explores the midlife crisis of a lonely, stagnant California community college music professor, Gordon Clay. The improbable plot begins with a Paul Auster-like coincidence: a late-night phone call from a woman with the same name as his ex, wanting to know if Gordon has her son-apparently, this is a different Carrie looking for a different Gordon Clay. Afterward, Gordon is left to wonder at the fate of the missing boy, the synonymous couple and his nagging chest pains. Gordon's meandering journey of spiritual and self-discovery leads to unlikely confrontations with one-dimensional, largely unlikable (and occasionally hateful) characters like tone-deaf music student Sister Cecilia and Polynesian single mom Mikilauni Kukula. Frequent digressions on music and religion make a welcome break-Lynch knows her subjects-but in the end, the mundane plot and its contrived resolution will test readers' patience far more than it does poor Gordon's heart. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Chest Pains: A Novelby Janet Nichols Lynch
"When Gordon Clay, a failed musician turned community college music instructor, suffers chest pains, he fears heart disease. But in fact he is suffering a midlife crisis one compounded by loneliness, professional disappointment and spiritual doubts. Chest Pains is a novel that explores these somber circumstances - and how they are eventually overcome - with wit,… See more details below
"When Gordon Clay, a failed musician turned community college music instructor, suffers chest pains, he fears heart disease. But in fact he is suffering a midlife crisis one compounded by loneliness, professional disappointment and spiritual doubts. Chest Pains is a novel that explores these somber circumstances - and how they are eventually overcome - with wit, whimsy and irony. The novel is framed by the worlds of music, academia, marathons, religious faith and religious skepticism - all worlds known firsthand by the author." Chest Pains is set in California where Gordon, who once dreamed of a career as a double bass player, finds little pleasure in life, except for his cats and dinner of salted peanuts and beer. An irreverent lapsed Catholic, he begins to tutor one of his least promising students, Cecelia, a tone-deaf, marathon-running ex-nun who is convinced God has chosen her for a calling in music. In a park he befriends Moopuna, a young boy of Pacific Island and African descent. He later begins a relationship with the child's young, unwed Polynesian mother. Gordon's hopes for a professional career and a traditional family don't materialize, but through unlikely characters such as these he gradually finds fulfillment in other ways, and with it a restoration of faith.
In this promising, lighthearted first adult novel (Lynch has written several YA titles), a community college music professor finds himself in the throes of a serious midlife crisis. At the beginning, unmarried and childless Gordon Clay is a defeated man, living alone with his cats and experiencing stress-related chest pains. Among his many worries are a nonexistent love life, disinterested students, and unrealized ambitions as a classical musician. What he feels most keenly, though, is the absence of children and deep regret about not starting a family. By the end of the novel, Clay's crisis is resolved, and he finds himself happily caring for the young son of a former lover. Although Lynch relies a little too heavily on coincidence and expedience (Clay falls in love very quickly, and some plot developments seem improbable), there is nonetheless a good deal here that is noteworthy. The characters are capably rendered, and many scenes are memorable. Recommended for libraries with large modern fiction collections.
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