Liner Notes

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Side A: Laney's Going Solo
Laney has just finished graduate school in California and sees her cross-country drive as the perfect chance to reflect on the past before facing her future back East. With 3,000 miles ahead of her and a box of mix tapes as her only companion, she envisions a trip spent reminiscing; whether it's her first camp kisses, high school parties and crushes, or college loves and losses, ...

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Side A: Laney's Going Solo
Laney has just finished graduate school in California and sees her cross-country drive as the perfect chance to reflect on the past before facing her future back East. With 3,000 miles ahead of her and a box of mix tapes as her only companion, she envisions a trip spent reminiscing; whether it's her first camp kisses, high school parties and crushes, or college loves and losses, Laney's most treasured memories — good and bad — are all just a song away.

Side B: A Change of Tune
Laney's mother, in town for graduation, thinks a mother-daughter road trip sounds like much more fun than going it alone — and Laney can hardly refuse. Soon, she's giving her mother a crash course not only in pop music of the '70s and '80s but also in her own life...for somehow Mom doesn't know her daughter as well as she'd like to. Together, as America whizzes by, Laney and her mother are turning up the volume of their relationship...and learning that there's nothing more revealing than the soundtrack of our lives.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Tom Perrotta Author of Election and Joe College Emily Franklin's charming debut novel is a grab-bag of delights.
Publishers Weekly
As a writer for NPR's Car Talk, first-timer Franklin seems particularly qualified to pen a rollicking road-trip novel but a smooth ride requires more than just a basic familiarity with mechanics. Fresh out of grad school, Laney can't wait for a cross-country drive to a new job in her hometown of Boston. To Laney's horror, however, her mother in for a visit and in remission from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma decides to come along. The narrative moves unswervingly forward, toward home and a friendship between mother and daughter. From Carmel, Calif., through Tulsa, Okla., to Graceland and home, Laney and Annie grow closer. Readers learn about Laney as she chats in the car, filling her mother in on all she missed while she was ill and reminiscing about summer camp and old best friends. These flashbacks depend on a heavy-handed and not entirely effective gimmick: each recollection is sparked by a mix tape. Laundry lists of chart-toppers, cult hits and novelty songs spanning the cassette era "Dancing on the Ceiling," "Burning Down the House," "Blister in the Sun" are offered as road signs to Laney's feelings. Said signs may be indecipherable to all but the most reverent fan of 1980s music, however, and the string of titles fails to tie Franklin's scattered anecdotes together. The book's romantic element, telescoped into a few final chapters, turns on a long-lost mix and a happy coincidence. It's wildly unlikely, but so heavily foreshadowed that readers won't put up much resistance. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Road trip set to music only the author can hear. Pesky (and expensive) copyright issues keep trite song lyrics out of this debut novel-but not the titles. Idiosyncratic picks of 1970s and '80s pop music punctuate the meandering narrative, thanks to a heroine who loves nothing more than a mix. Laney looks for answers, only she "didn't know what the answer was, only that it felt good, right somehow, that all the feelings of listening to the records could be summed up by one small cassette. That you'd have a marker of some sort to show where you'd been and what you'd listened to, and who or what it all meant." (Clearly, it also saves the author the trouble of actually writing about these things.) When her mother is stricken with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and must endure chemo and radiation, Laney's family falls apart, kinda. And kinda not. Her father, who sells arty ceramics via catalogue, doesn't really know what to do. The only place she can think straight is on the road-and now that her mother's feeling better, maybe she'd like to come along for the ride. Laney will even listen to Broadway show tunes if it'll make Mom happy. (Just why these are so much worse than such Laney favorites as John Denver's whining ode to his first wife, "Annie's Song," or the more-whacked-than-thou Butthole Surfers, is not made clear.) Whoa-is this Graceland? Shrine to Elvis. Whoa-Las Vegas? Looks like a neon graveyard. Every place and every thing has a soundtrack. It's like this girl she knew who lost her virginity to a U-2 song. Whenever Laney hears that song, she thinks of her thinking of that. And this other song that makes her think of her boyfriend Jeremy thinking of his girlfriend before her, quote unquote.Skippable. Agent: Tracy Fisher/William Morris
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743469838
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 9/30/2003
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Emily Franklin

Emily Franklin split her formative years between Boston and London. After studying at Oxford University, she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and earned a graduate degree from Dartmouth College. She currently lives outside of Boston with her family where she is on the staff of National Public Radio's "Car Talk" show. Liner Notes is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Moons and Junes and Ferris Wheels

Side A

Blue Sky

— Tom Waits

C'mon, C'mon

— Sheryl Crow

Fountain of Sorrow

— Jackson Browne

The Gambler

— Kenny Rogers

No Sleep Till Brooklyn

— Beastie Boys

Summer Breeze

— Seals and Crofts

The Piña Colada Song

— Rupert Holmes

Gardening at Night

— R.E.M.

Paris, Texas

— Ry Cooder

Carefree Highway

— Gordon Lightfoot

Sneaking Sally (Through the Alley)

— Palmer

Glory Bound

— Martin Sexton

Side B

Both Sides Now

— Judy Collins

Isn't She Lovely

— Stevie Wonder

Play Me

— Neil Diamond

I Will Be in Love with You

— L. Taylor

Empty Pages

— Traffic

Sister Golden Hair

— America


— Harry Chapin

Whenever I Call You Friend

— Loggins

I Saw Her Again

— The Mamas and the Papas

Remember the Feeling

— Chicago

For You

— Bruce Springsteen

Can't Let Go

— Lucinda Williams

These are the two cross-country driving scenarios I have pictured:

One :

My best girlfriends and I drive through random states and pick up crappy souvenirs from each place — pens that undress women when you turn them upside down, glass balls filled with snow that flutters over some landmark, shot glasses from saloons called things like the Dirt Cowboy. With the windows rolled down, we listen to seventies favorites like "Summer Breeze," "Hot Child in the City," and "Right Down the Line."

We say things like, "Gerry Rafferty? I always forget he sings that. I love that song!" And when "Same Auld Lang Syne" comes on, and it's late and dark and the lights of Vegas or Tahoe are just appearing over the dash, we cry a little, since it's such a sad song. But then, we gamble and eat steak dinners for $1.99 and stay in a plush hotel and win big. Or, we go to some run-down bar and play pinball and check in at the Blue Bell Inn, roadside, where we meet handsome, smart guys who are also doing the cross-country thing, but with eighties tunes. Together, we're our own not-sold-in-stores CD.


Without a shirt and while holding my hand, my boyfriend is a safe, confident driver. Past all the tourist spots like Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, even Savannah, we drive for hours a day and sleep at bed and breakfasts with rich cultural histories. At night, there are no televisions, so we read our books out loud to each other. We aren't sure of our destination, only that we'll know when we get there. The landscape will reach out to us and we will be sure that this spot is where we are meant to be. Also, the boyfriend is very good-looking and an excellent mechanic.

But what happens is:

Neither the friends nor the Road Trip Guy — who has never actually existed — can make it. Sure, my girlfriends and I had always talked about a cross-country trip, but the reality of hovering at thirty years old didn't leave us the time to do it. Somehow we'd missed our opportunity at music video-style driving. Now we're simply too old or too busy to sling a backpack into the trunk and get our tank-topped selves into a convertible. Or maybe that's just my excuse.

At the very least, we're all scattered: Red-haired Casey, my college friend, is in London working as a professional puppeteer. Tall, glamorous Maggie's off in Hollywood — her role of being lifelong friend to me is tempered with her role as Superstar Wife to People magazine's "Sexiest Man Ever." Completing my group of friends-as-seen-in-a-hair-care-advertisement is Shana, whose brown hair is perpetually a different shade. Shana who is meant for a road trip like this. Shana, my funny, irreverent summer camp friend, who isn't here because — well, that's another issue altogether.

What I do know is that my girlfriends and I would have made the perfect shampoo copy — you know, the glossy photo spread ones where each woman has different hair so you can tell them apart, or identify with the one who's most like you. "Oh — that's me! I'm the curly brunette!" or "She's got a ponytail just like mine."

And as for my Imaginary Road Trip Man — he might be out there, somewhere. But if I've ever met him — my ideal — I probably didn't recognize him. Sometimes I think the greatest guy around could be right in front of me and I'd pick the guy next to him. Or maybe I'd pick the right guy, but manage somehow to mess it up.

So, since I am alone — please not forever, but at this point who knows — I've looked at the road trip as time to myself. Or maybe that's just my rationalizing why I'm making the three-thousand-mile drive by myself, unkissed, unadored in the pit of Southwest canyons. Unappreciated in some revolting motel that, unlike in fantasy, really is disgusting with mothy sheets and someone's forgotten underwear in the shower.

Of course this isn't how I planned this trip. But here's what I figure:

If I can't have Fantasy Guy along for the trip, I'll be the heroine of my own never-filmed John Hughes movie, cute and perky with a sound track to boot, or — moody, quirky, half filmed in black and white to the tune of Ry Cooder's eerie melodies following me as I drive through the rock and sand west. To make like a camera and film myself — instead of being a part of it and feeling my way. But it's hard — how do you know why you do what you do? And even when you figure it out, what to do with the knowledge?

My artistic motives professor made us start our final year of graduate school training with our backs to him. Each of us stood in the bright hall facing huge empty canvases. He instructed us to start even though we had no oils, no watercolors, no charcoal, just a dry brush.

"I want you to create here," the professor said. He'd been there since the late fifties and rumor had it that he'd smoked pot with beat poets and had his share of undergrads visit his tapestried office, but we all listened to him as he paced back and forth, his paint-splattered shoes echoing on the linoleum. "When you can't make something work, when you can't figure out your motivation, you become paralyzed. Start with all the images of paintings, of art, of creating something whole, and then stop the fragmenting process..."

I don't remember everything else he said. I just remember standing, looking at the plain white sheet ahead of me and thinking, This is what I have to do — not just on the canvas, but in my life.

When I'd started my advanced degree in art restoration, when I'd taken chemistry and memorized cleaning calculations, I felt like I was accomplishing something — fixing paintings, degriming unappreciated sculptures, helping. But now I'd finished my degree, earned my papers, and lined up a job back in Boston and I wasn't sure I could do it — make the art or my life whole.

Maybe the hippie-professor guy was right, maybe I've patched up enough items — myself included — and now I'm ready to move forward, not distancing myself, making my past into vignettes, but cohering my memories so where I've been and where I'm heading fit together.

So this was my plan. I would pack up my things, ship them back east with the ease of hot sweaty moving men, and I would hit the road with my coffee and snacks, with my music, and try somehow to figure out where I came up empty — and how to fix it.

And I wouldn't be truly alone — I had my mix tapes. Each one signified a piece of my life — two summer months, a year in high school, a boy I no longer knew, a friendship that had crumbled — and this made for excellent time travel. I could listen to each one and be right back there, and maybe regain whatever it was I left behind. In traipsing back into these memories, these specific periods in time, maybe I could sort out how I came to be here — three thousand miles away from where I started, and no real idea either how to get back or what exactly I hoped to find once I did.

Of course, I could fly back to Boston where my new job lies in wait. Where I know I have to face facts — get an apartment (alone), live at my parents' (with them) until I find a place, and go to a wedding (also alone) where Marcus (call him my Backup Guy) is the groom, and possibly reconcile the fact that I might never speak to Shana again (more me alone, but as a withered old woman with no other old granny — we planned on aging together — to dance with). So, sure. I could fly back to Boston and get it over with. But I think it's time I took this trip — alone or otherwise.

Of course, like my Road Trip Guy, or my fabulous girlfriends who could magically drop their lives to join me on my journey, my alone time vanished, too. But not in the way I imagined, not when I got the phone call that my parents were in town, not when they announced they were coming over. Something in my father's tone let me know they had something to tell me — something that I knew meant a major change in my plans.

Copyright © 2003 by Emily Franklin

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2005


    Aww, I loved this, it had such a fantastic happy ending! And even though I just finished making a mix, I suddenly want to do another (for those of you who haven't read it, it's like her life through mix tapes she'd done over the years.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2004

    More than just your usual chick lit...

    I really enjoyed this novel. The narrator's voice is fresh and unique. The writing is better than most traditional chick lit. Actually, much better...I guarantee you will be sucked in very quickly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2003


    A Very challenging book to write, im sure. An absolute must have . A mother-daughter classic, i believe.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    Road-trip story with a twist!

    Liner Notes is an engaging road-trip story with a twist. Instead of a group of friends or two lovers, it¿s Laney and her mother, working through their mottled pasts as they drive across the country. They delve into family relationships, the mother¿s illness, and Laney¿s failed romances, all memories sparked by intriguing mixed tapes, the soundtrack to Laney¿s life. Some of the most gorgeous scenes are the tender renditions of the mother¿s long fight with cancer and the shadow this illness cast on Laney¿s young adult years. A great read for mothers and daughters or anyone who loves the kind of music found on cassette tapes under the seat of a well-worn car.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2003

    Enlightening but not heavy read

    Emily Franklin's first novel is just that, a first novel. The story line is clever in that it follows the soundtrack of a young woman's life as she comes to grips with her past in order to move into her present. There is a strong mother-daughter element to the story which will touch the heart. The only criticism is the story can be slightly 'cheesy' in places, for lack of a better word. Great first effort!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    THis book hooks the reader

    To start her new job working in art restoration for a Boston museum, thirty-year-old Laney plans to drive across the country with the music tapes she created by herself. Laney looks back at how she envisioned this trek with a boyfriend or her close girlfriends, but she has no one to accompany her. However, that solo drive ends when her mother, who was very ill but recovered, flies out to join her so that they can reconnect on the cross-country drive.<P> At the beginning of the trip, Laney resents her mother¿s intrusion. However, as they begin to use her tapes and reflect back as to when Laney made them, they share memories that only a mother and a daughter can have.<P> Up front, this author hooked me when her bio stated she works for the NPR Car Talk show, whose hosts provide one of the funniest helpful shows that is a hit on the radio (a new carburetor every 40 years?). Back to LINER NOTES: The story line is intriguing as Laney reflects back on her life based on the event that triggered a specific tape that she created. She is the center that holds together this road show novel as she searches into her past seeking the answer to why relationships seem to end while her mom just wants to reconnect. The tale of the tapes is fascinating, but at times the numerous tracks can interfere with an intriguing plot, gimmick and all.<P> Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2003

    The Soundtrack to Your Life

    An enjoyable, well-written and moving first novel! As Nick Hornby did in High Fidelity, Emily Franklin's LINER NOTES focuses on the roles of music and memory. We follow Laney and her mother on their road trip across country during which Laney tries to explain her life through the songs and mix tapes that summed up particular experiences (a certain relationship, summer of 1987, etc). The writing is accessible yet inciteful, and Franklin manages to be funny without distancing the reader with the humor. The music is in the pages of the book, so the novel has its own soundtrack. I identified with the idea of using songs as a time-travel mechanism, and highly suggest this book to music-lovers or anyone who wants a good read.

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