I am gobsmacked.
Since I don't think I've ever used that word before, either spoken or written, I looked it up. Merriam-Webster dictionary says it means "overwhelmed with wonder, surprise, or shock: astounded." Yup, that's exactly how I feel on finishing reading Richard Power's THE TIME OF OUR SINGING.
I mostly read contemporary novels by women authors, both because I tend to like them better and because the literary landscape is so uneven, and my book-buying and reading habits can do a tiny bit to level that terrain. But after finishing OVERSTORY, I needed to know what else this man has written.
In extraordinary and lyrical prose, THE TIME OF OUR SINGING explores connections between art and science, between activism and creative self-expression, between the towering dissonances of our world: race and ethnic strife. The coming-together of things that don't easily fit is a central question of the novel.
The story begins when Delia, a young black vocal student, meets David, a physicist immigrant Jew from eastern Europe, in 1939 at the Marian Anderson concert on the D.C. Mall. They fall in love, and marry, wanting to raise a family beyond race. Their three children are biracial, fitting into neither world, and they are musical prodigies. But both Delia and David's cultures have a similar saying: The bird and the fish can fall in love. But where they gonna build their nest?
The novel is told in a series of prose melodies, harmonies, dissonances and extraordinary symphonies. David studies the nature of time, so that theme weaves in and out of the story as well. The book is too long, with too much musical theory and description for my taste, but the central narrative is heartbreaking, important, and so beautifully sung.