Chosen by Rachel
The history of America’s founders is told by the travels of an accordion, and the hands it passes through.
♥ “An accordion is handmade by a Sicilian in 1890 and changes owners several times throughout the novel, ending up in Florida in 1966. Each owner belongs to a nation of people new to the Americas. Each chapter tells their story, not only their personal story but how their people came to America, their successes, their adversities and importantly how they helped shape and grow the country into what it is today.
“It acknowledges the contributions of the various nationalities from the music and song of the French and Sicilians to the railroad construction techniques of the Germans. At the same time it demonstrates how the memories of these nationalities’ contributions is being erased, instead labelling the Sicilians as criminals and mobsters and causing German families to change their surnames due to fear of persecution.
“Amongst the seriousness is the beauty of the accordion. The reader is educated on the intricate detailing required to build the instrument, but also how they are played and how each generation, and each nationality of people, played and enjoyed it and how it formed part of their history.
“At the end of each extended chapter, (small spoiler alert but you’ll still enjoy the book having read this) all the characters you have been introduced to and became familiar with, die in the short space of a page or two. Some are gorily detailed, others are merely recorded, some are hard to read, others are amusing, but by the end, we have learnt of everyone’s ultimate demise.
“Proulx to her credit has been quite inventive with her deaths. It gets to the point where you wonder how could she possibly find ways to kill off the next bunch of characters. But of course there is a serious side too, with their deaths showcasing the violence and injustice often experienced by immigrants.
“Despite knowing everyone is going to die in the final paragraphs, the reader is presented with characters who are full and highly detailed in the pages prior, with their stories concluded before the dying begins, so the sudden reporting of their fates doesn’t leave you in the lurch with an unfinished story. It’s an interesting feature though, that drew different reactions amongst us from bemusement to horror.”