Hot Best Seller

Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano

Availability: Ready to download

Andrea Avery, already a promising and ambitious classical pianist at twelve, was diagnosed with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that threatened not just her musical aspirations but her ability to live a normal life. As Andrea navigates the pain and frustration of coping with RA alongside the usual travails of puberty, college, sex, and just growing-up, she turns Andrea Avery, already a promising and ambitious classical pianist at twelve, was diagnosed with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that threatened not just her musical aspirations but her ability to live a normal life. As Andrea navigates the pain and frustration of coping with RA alongside the usual travails of puberty, college, sex, and just growing-up, she turns to music?specifically Franz Schubert's sonata in B-flat D960, and the one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein for strength and inspiration. The heartbreaking story of this mysterious sonata—Schubert’s last, and his most elusive and haunting—is the soundtrack of Andrea's story. Sonata is a breathtaking exploration of a “Janus-head miracle”—Andrea's extraordinary talent and even more extraordinary illness. With no cure for her R.A. possible, Andrea must learn to live with this disease while not letting it define her, even though it leaves its mark on everything around her—family, relationships, even the clothes she wears. And in this riveting account, she never loses her wit, humor, or the raw artistry of a true performer. As the goshawk becomes a source of both devotion and frustration for Helen Macdonald in H is for Hawk, so the piano comes to represent both struggle and salvation for Andrea in her extraordinary debut.


Compare

Andrea Avery, already a promising and ambitious classical pianist at twelve, was diagnosed with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that threatened not just her musical aspirations but her ability to live a normal life. As Andrea navigates the pain and frustration of coping with RA alongside the usual travails of puberty, college, sex, and just growing-up, she turns Andrea Avery, already a promising and ambitious classical pianist at twelve, was diagnosed with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that threatened not just her musical aspirations but her ability to live a normal life. As Andrea navigates the pain and frustration of coping with RA alongside the usual travails of puberty, college, sex, and just growing-up, she turns to music?specifically Franz Schubert's sonata in B-flat D960, and the one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein for strength and inspiration. The heartbreaking story of this mysterious sonata—Schubert’s last, and his most elusive and haunting—is the soundtrack of Andrea's story. Sonata is a breathtaking exploration of a “Janus-head miracle”—Andrea's extraordinary talent and even more extraordinary illness. With no cure for her R.A. possible, Andrea must learn to live with this disease while not letting it define her, even though it leaves its mark on everything around her—family, relationships, even the clothes she wears. And in this riveting account, she never loses her wit, humor, or the raw artistry of a true performer. As the goshawk becomes a source of both devotion and frustration for Helen Macdonald in H is for Hawk, so the piano comes to represent both struggle and salvation for Andrea in her extraordinary debut.

30 review for Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    There is a scene in the movie Amadeus when Mozart is first arriving at the court of the Emperor. Court composer Salieri composed a work for Mozart’s arrival. Mozart, upon one hearing, promptly memorizes and plays back the composition - critiquing it as he plays. At one point, he says something along the lines of: “this note does not quite work, does it?” Now shift our scene to a practice room at Arizona State University where a very left-brained bass player is working on a fugue for his counterp There is a scene in the movie Amadeus when Mozart is first arriving at the court of the Emperor. Court composer Salieri composed a work for Mozart’s arrival. Mozart, upon one hearing, promptly memorizes and plays back the composition - critiquing it as he plays. At one point, he says something along the lines of: “this note does not quite work, does it?” Now shift our scene to a practice room at Arizona State University where a very left-brained bass player is working on a fugue for his counterpoint class. Without good piano skills, he was relying on the “math” of the music to ensure all the rules for the composition were being met. One of his piano playing friends, by the name of Andrea, entered and asked what he was working on and offered play it. During her reading, she hits one spot and says: “this note does not quite work, does it?” Yes, that bass player was me and that pianist was Andrea Avery. I recognized immediately that I had been Salieri’d. That prodigiousness that was so evident in our years as friends and classmates has been transposed to writing and exudes from the pages of this book. I could not put it down - amazing!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    A beautifully written, unflinching look at how a pianist has fought and accommodated her disease, even as it tried to close off her instrument. This is not Inspiration Lit. Avery doesn't triumph over adversity to nab a Juilliard scholarship, recording contract, and massive acclaim as a concert pianist. She allows us to see her anger, her loss at not being given a fair shake to see where her talent might take her before RA decided that she wasn't allowed to know if her joints would reliably funct A beautifully written, unflinching look at how a pianist has fought and accommodated her disease, even as it tried to close off her instrument. This is not Inspiration Lit. Avery doesn't triumph over adversity to nab a Juilliard scholarship, recording contract, and massive acclaim as a concert pianist. She allows us to see her anger, her loss at not being given a fair shake to see where her talent might take her before RA decided that she wasn't allowed to know if her joints would reliably function. That some days are good, some days are bad, and some days are awful. Mixed into Avery's story are the stories of Franz Schubert, a gifted composer ahead of his time who wrote the B flat sonata that calls to her, and Paul Wittgenstein, a concert pianist who lost an arm in WWI. (Someday, I hope she writes about being an English teacher, too, since she gives us a small glimpse into her life as an instructor and it sounds like she can give us some stories there, too.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Spiegel

    I don't think I can do this book justice here. Andrea Avery and I were in the same MFA program, and we knew each other like people who don't hang out but are in the same program know one another. I really managed to not know the subject of this book. How could I not know? I remember, mostly, the sound of Andrea's voice, a dry, droll, quick, pointy, witty sound. And I remember her funky glasses. I'd be lying if I said I didn't remember her limbs, her posture. I don't think I knew, actually, it was I don't think I can do this book justice here. Andrea Avery and I were in the same MFA program, and we knew each other like people who don't hang out but are in the same program know one another. I really managed to not know the subject of this book. How could I not know? I remember, mostly, the sound of Andrea's voice, a dry, droll, quick, pointy, witty sound. And I remember her funky glasses. I'd be lying if I said I didn't remember her limbs, her posture. I don't think I knew, actually, it was rheumatoid arthritis. And I definitely did not know she was struck with it as a preteen (the age of one of my own daughters), nor did I know that she was a pianist, that the piano and music were so very integral to who she was, and that disease had stymied her aspirations. I knew she wrote. I assumed, because it's all that I wanted, that that was all that she wanted too. I highlighted so many passages. Where to begin to mention one? "I had visited music, but I was a resident of illness." Schubert's Sonata is at the heart of this uber-moving memoir. I think what I loved so much about it was that it was not just a memoir about self; rather, it was a memoir about self in relation to Art. I've read a number of cancer-centric memoirs, as I wrote my own. Some were quite good. Interestingly, this book, which isn't about cancer, was maybe the one that moved me the most. Sidenote: it's terribly romantic.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Nelson

    I wasn’t expecting to like this so much when I picked it up; I thought it would be interesting to read about Avery’s experience with rheumatoid arthritis and how she came to terms with managing this debilitating disease while also wanting to be a musician. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the raw, heartfelt emotions and brutally honest look at her life and her experience growing up. Avery lays everything bare in this memoir: how much she enjoys and lives for music, her dreams of being a pia I wasn’t expecting to like this so much when I picked it up; I thought it would be interesting to read about Avery’s experience with rheumatoid arthritis and how she came to terms with managing this debilitating disease while also wanting to be a musician. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the raw, heartfelt emotions and brutally honest look at her life and her experience growing up. Avery lays everything bare in this memoir: how much she enjoys and lives for music, her dreams of being a pianist, the horrifying way RA takes control of your body, how a chronic illness affects your mind, too. Nothing is glossed over, and it makes for an incredibly compelling read. She’s has a quick, dry wit and even though a lot of this book is tough to read about, it’s often also quite funny. I felt like I was invited to sit with her and learn about her life, and she entertained me with her stories. I loved the framing of the writing by using the parts of a musical work; I thought that was quite clever. This book was beautifully paced and neatly told. Avery is clearly a talented writer, and I can only hope that she continues to write, because I would love to read another book by her. I recommend this for anyone with an interest in memoirs; if you like music, you’ll also get a lot out of this, as Avery uses composers’ histories and stories to frame her own narrative. It’s well done and a treat to read. Also posted on Purple People Readers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Katharine

    With both depth and delicate cadence, Avery’s novel reads like music and rises and arcs like song. Her painful and poignant account of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis reminds the reader about the power that our bodies command and the struggles to meet our physical selves with our hearts and emotions. Her narrative is textured and tactile: I was easily taken into her childhood living room, feeling the chill of a doctor’s office, or the smoothness of a piano key under a plunking finger. She detai With both depth and delicate cadence, Avery’s novel reads like music and rises and arcs like song. Her painful and poignant account of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis reminds the reader about the power that our bodies command and the struggles to meet our physical selves with our hearts and emotions. Her narrative is textured and tactile: I was easily taken into her childhood living room, feeling the chill of a doctor’s office, or the smoothness of a piano key under a plunking finger. She details the sweetness and frustrations of family dynamics, young love, and disease with tenderness and humor. It is a compelling and worthwhile read not just for those that appreciate masterful prose, but for those who need reminding that being whole, being well and being human is beautiful and hard.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Hill

    I finished this book two or three days ago and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. I think it would make an amazing graduation gift for anyone who is off to college and has felt like they don't fit in (so...everyone?), anyone interested in music or anyone with a chronic illness. Or how about anyone who wants to read sentences that are so YES that you have to walk across the room to get a pencil and underline, lest you forget. Avery is the English teacher we should have all been lucky enou I finished this book two or three days ago and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. I think it would make an amazing graduation gift for anyone who is off to college and has felt like they don't fit in (so...everyone?), anyone interested in music or anyone with a chronic illness. Or how about anyone who wants to read sentences that are so YES that you have to walk across the room to get a pencil and underline, lest you forget. Avery is the English teacher we should have all been lucky enough to have. "Romance: someone to do all the long-day Monday evening errands with. A lifetime of extraordinary ordinary" (197).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    When I came across a reference to this book, perhaps here on Goodreads I immediately wanted to read it. I dreamed of a career in music as a little girl and young woman, but chronic pain dashed those dreams at a young age. I was intrigued to find a book by and about someone who started in a similar situation. There was a lot here that I could identify with, not just with regard to music, but being a teenager and going to university with chronic pain. Avery has clearly laid out her journey in an occ When I came across a reference to this book, perhaps here on Goodreads I immediately wanted to read it. I dreamed of a career in music as a little girl and young woman, but chronic pain dashed those dreams at a young age. I was intrigued to find a book by and about someone who started in a similar situation. There was a lot here that I could identify with, not just with regard to music, but being a teenager and going to university with chronic pain. Avery has clearly laid out her journey in an occasionally funny, truthful and very readable memoir about life with a chronic illness; living in the border between well and disabled. I found "Sonata" effortless to read, thanks to her twin backgrounds in composition and English. Whatever the reason you happen to come to "Sonata" it's well worth your time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I was drawn to this memoir of an aspiring classical pianist whose dreams are thwarted by arthritis, specifically Rheumatoid Arthritis, because it was so similar to the story I'd heard about my grandmother. My grandma owned a piano and it was one of her most beloved possessions as she had saved many years to buy it, even second-hand. Yet, arthritis was a rotten thief and took away her ability to play the piano long before I was even born. So the piano sat mostly silent except for when us curious I was drawn to this memoir of an aspiring classical pianist whose dreams are thwarted by arthritis, specifically Rheumatoid Arthritis, because it was so similar to the story I'd heard about my grandmother. My grandma owned a piano and it was one of her most beloved possessions as she had saved many years to buy it, even second-hand. Yet, arthritis was a rotten thief and took away her ability to play the piano long before I was even born. So the piano sat mostly silent except for when us curious grandchildren would try our hand at tickling the ivories. I mourn for the loss of never hearing the piano play the music it must have at my grandma's hands. Similarly, after reading this beautifully written memoir, I mourn for what could have been in Andrea Avery's musical life. But I also applaud her resilience, her determination, her gumption in continuing to rebuild her life after RA steals something from her. If it weren't for RA, she may have never found the talented writer and English teacher that resided in her. But if she'd never had RA, she may have become quite the talented concert pianist. We'll never know. But I am grateful that she found a way to share her art with us in the structure of her words, her sentences, the sections of her life story following the rise and fall of a musical sonata. Life has its ups and downs and she has set hers musically and lyrically in a model unlike any I've ever had the joy of reading before. Her astute observations, the humor, the self-awareness - all combine to make a very fulfilling read and make me wish I knew Andrea Avery in person. She sounds like quite the character!

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Bastin

    I first encountered Andrea Avery when she guest-blogged on the Rex Parker New York Times crossword puzzle blog, and just in passing mentioned this book (she said she had been encouraged to put in a plug). I'm glad she did. She writes an engaging epistle about dealing with RA, Rheumatoid Arthritis, recounting the problems (and successes) she has gone through in her life. Her original talent as a youth was musical, she was very skilled on the piano, the centerpiece of her musical inspiration was Fr I first encountered Andrea Avery when she guest-blogged on the Rex Parker New York Times crossword puzzle blog, and just in passing mentioned this book (she said she had been encouraged to put in a plug). I'm glad she did. She writes an engaging epistle about dealing with RA, Rheumatoid Arthritis, recounting the problems (and successes) she has gone through in her life. Her original talent as a youth was musical, she was very skilled on the piano, the centerpiece of her musical inspiration was Franz Schubert's Sonata in B-Flat, D.960. The book is written as a musical construction, recounting the ups and downs in her life as types of musical styles and movements. She identifies with Schubert's health problems and his efforts to work through them. Also present in the book are quotes from one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein, another victim of seemingly insurmountable odds. I have no doubt that Andrea is a great pianist, but her writing skills are also demonstrated here, and they are prodigious, as well. This was a very easy-to-read book, even though some of its descriptions are unfortunate and tragic. In this book I learned a lot about RA, as well as how a determined person can succeed in not allowing it to totally rule her life. I recommend it as a valuable read, not to be missed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary Lewis

    Well, I'm crying as I'm writing this, if it tells you anything. This is such a lovely, simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting memoir, one that makes me grateful that even if I'm working through technique issues, I can play my violin. I know very acutely what it's like to lose my music and find it again, even if my story does not include chronic illness and even if I wound up back in musical academia where Andrea Avery could not. I even related to the undercurrent of sibling rivalry and compar Well, I'm crying as I'm writing this, if it tells you anything. This is such a lovely, simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting memoir, one that makes me grateful that even if I'm working through technique issues, I can play my violin. I know very acutely what it's like to lose my music and find it again, even if my story does not include chronic illness and even if I wound up back in musical academia where Andrea Avery could not. I even related to the undercurrent of sibling rivalry and comparison, to an extent; my younger sister has done virtually everything I have done in terms of academics and extracurriculars, barring specific AP classes, specific volleyball clubs, and the fact that she plays flute on the side rather than as a joint primary pursuit alongside her sport. I would have felt devastated if my mom (my dad isn't her dad, so he wouldn't have done this) had suggested that I put her picture among my inspirations, too, for similar reasons. I feel ownership over my music. All three of us play musical instruments of some sort, but I am the musician. But that final image of the Wittgenstein brothers... well, that's why I'm still crying. Above all else, they're my heart, and I will always love them with everything I have. Anyway. Definitely recommend reading this, even if you don't deal with chronic illness or play an instrument. You might find less to personally relate to than I did, but Andrea's story is still compelling and touching enough to be worthwhile.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Kho

    It seems strange to say that Andrea Avery wrote a beautiful book about pain, but Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano is just that - a memoir about making peace, and more, with the pain that came through a case of rheumatoid arthritis that was diagnosed at age 12. The diagnosis and disease were made even worse by the fact that Andrea was already a gifted pianist at that age; her love and longing for the ability to create magic through music, and all the ways in which RA thwarted that dream, ne It seems strange to say that Andrea Avery wrote a beautiful book about pain, but Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano is just that - a memoir about making peace, and more, with the pain that came through a case of rheumatoid arthritis that was diagnosed at age 12. The diagnosis and disease were made even worse by the fact that Andrea was already a gifted pianist at that age; her love and longing for the ability to create magic through music, and all the ways in which RA thwarted that dream, never gets easier for the reader to reconcile. So lyrical, honest and even funny...while I'd never be "glad" for her RA, I'm glad that the result of Andrea's detour away from piano was the discovery that she is a gifted writer.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Hough

    Rarely does a book tear my heart out and, in the very next sentence, make me laugh in a sudden chortle that scares my dog. This is that book. I don't often read memoir. Only the greats combine a deep self-awareness and a complete lack of self-pity. Only the best keep me up well past a sane bedtime, turning pages and bargaining with myself. Just one more chapter. Then I'll sleep. Tonight, I made coffee beforehand, so I wouldn't have to put it down. I love this book. It's gut-wrenching and silly a Rarely does a book tear my heart out and, in the very next sentence, make me laugh in a sudden chortle that scares my dog. This is that book. I don't often read memoir. Only the greats combine a deep self-awareness and a complete lack of self-pity. Only the best keep me up well past a sane bedtime, turning pages and bargaining with myself. Just one more chapter. Then I'll sleep. Tonight, I made coffee beforehand, so I wouldn't have to put it down. I love this book. It's gut-wrenching and silly and deep and funny and fun, in equal measure. What I'm saying is, buy the book. Just know you won't be able to set it down until you've finished it. The four star reviews baffle me. I assume these are the same sort of people who don't, as policy, give out perfect grades for perfect papers or perfect performance reviews for perfect work.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Monika

    This is a candid memoir about rheumatoid arthritis interrupting the author's dream of becoming a concert pianist. Diagnosed just as the extent of her talent is becoming clear, Avery fights to keep chronic illness from defining her, to hold on to her passions, and to find a way to balance it all. She shares gritty details of her medical history, helping readers understand that RA is more serious than "aches and pains." Interspersed throughout the narrative are relevant tidbits from music history; This is a candid memoir about rheumatoid arthritis interrupting the author's dream of becoming a concert pianist. Diagnosed just as the extent of her talent is becoming clear, Avery fights to keep chronic illness from defining her, to hold on to her passions, and to find a way to balance it all. She shares gritty details of her medical history, helping readers understand that RA is more serious than "aches and pains." Interspersed throughout the narrative are relevant tidbits from music history; most notably, Franz Schubert, who holds a special place in Avery's heart and her story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mari LivTollefsonCarlson

    Some people make music their life while others live life musically. Andrea Avery writes her life as Sonata. Using Franz Schubert’s sonata in B-flat D960 as inspiration and metaphor, she shares her memoir of living with RA, rheumatoid arthritis. Like Schubert, debilitated at the height of his career, Andrea, in college, gives up her dream of playing piano professionally when her body will no longer allow it. Instead of succumbing to her disability, as directed by a professor at Arizona State, she Some people make music their life while others live life musically. Andrea Avery writes her life as Sonata. Using Franz Schubert’s sonata in B-flat D960 as inspiration and metaphor, she shares her memoir of living with RA, rheumatoid arthritis. Like Schubert, debilitated at the height of his career, Andrea, in college, gives up her dream of playing piano professionally when her body will no longer allow it. Instead of succumbing to her disability, as directed by a professor at Arizona State, she uses her pain to compose music (129), in this case, music in prose. Each chapter is a movement of the sonata (e.g. Allegro Giocoso or Largo) and is accompanied by a quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein, brother to one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein. These headings name the tenor of the chapter and set her story in the context of a community of musicians and philosophers wrapping their heads around the place of pain and illness in art. Resonant of Olivia Laing’s THE LONELY CITY, Avery manages to make connections out of her individual and isolating experiences. Reaching out from these dark places, she speaks to us readers in our own. A climax comes in Target, of all places, where she encounters a curious little boy who asks why she looks the way she does. The incident, a cadenza of sorts, becomes a turning point. It is time go beyond the “deflection tactics,” (142), the tattoos and funky clothes, and claim “bi-abled” status, exclaiming, “I am the things I make. I am not the shape I take” (205). Andrea’s writing style is like the eclectic look she develops from childhood. “She’s something else” her physicist father likes to say. She’s not afraid to embrace a both a hip tone peppered with slang and references from her favorite grunge bands, as well as the academic elegance of research and her mother’s copious medical notes. Related-able to most every reader, she extends to us the same encouragement as the teachers she takes after to “put some oomph in it!”

  15. 4 out of 5

    John_g

    This is a beautifully-told confessional memoir about her purposeful battle against physical failures from chronic rheumatoid arthritis. It is a deadpan telling of intense emotions. The reading is sometimes angry and painful, as is her life, but more often is rapturous and inspiring. She says simple people want to know cause, and for her, the book explains what went wrong. As a child prodigy, her piano can't compare to young Mozart, and not even as good as her schoolmate competitor, but she favors This is a beautifully-told confessional memoir about her purposeful battle against physical failures from chronic rheumatoid arthritis. It is a deadpan telling of intense emotions. The reading is sometimes angry and painful, as is her life, but more often is rapturous and inspiring. She says simple people want to know cause, and for her, the book explains what went wrong. As a child prodigy, her piano can't compare to young Mozart, and not even as good as her schoolmate competitor, but she favors dramatic license. Over-drama (like being expelled but still getting BA) makes her story jarring, uncomfortable with the truth. She is a better author than pianist, reporting what her younger self did, with wordplay, witticisms and insights: “Playing music is an act of hubris” “kids don't have any expectation that life will be fair. It's the nature of childhood to expect that things will change without warning.” "There's the rub. You didn't move the joint because you couldn't move the joint, but now you can't move the joint because you didn't move the joint." As an amateur pianist, I was particularly interested in Schubert stories, music history, figured bass. She also details medical methods like goniometers and ultrasound. What to endure: much sadness, pitiable resentment, divorce, failed romances, angry confrontations against prejudice. She reveals her own hateful acts, caused by a nasty and understandable resentment. Why say "I co-opted [Mr. Frezzo's] music encyclopedia" - you just borrowed it, you didn't assimilate the ideas into yours? She's magically self-centered, like to the significance of what happens on birthdays.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    This was a wonderful treat! I am a medic with a background in music, and I loved this book. And so did a friend of mine, who is neither musical nor medically trained. We were both easily drawn into the story of Andrea, her charmingly flawed family, and the tragedy of the diagnosis that doomed the young woman's Juilliard potential. The Schubert sonata and the quotes from Wittgenstein that accompany and console her give the memoir structure and heart. A "memoir of pain ..." doesn't sound uplifting This was a wonderful treat! I am a medic with a background in music, and I loved this book. And so did a friend of mine, who is neither musical nor medically trained. We were both easily drawn into the story of Andrea, her charmingly flawed family, and the tragedy of the diagnosis that doomed the young woman's Juilliard potential. The Schubert sonata and the quotes from Wittgenstein that accompany and console her give the memoir structure and heart. A "memoir of pain ..." doesn't sound uplifting, but in a way it is and you won't be able to put this book down. It is so subtly well-crafted that you are drawn into a story that is by turns funny and heartbreaking, charming and desolate, articulate and intense. It is not an identity book and everyone should read it, but it should be on the reading list of every medical school and on every music course. And it is definitely on my Top Ten list for 2017!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I haven't been this touched by a book since I read LIT, the memoir by Mary Carr. Avery's SONATA is at once deeply felt and light on its poetic feet, even playful, and I found myself putting little ticks in the margin for the lines that sang to me. I found myself in tears at parts; but this book is not a melodramatic tale of coping with rheumatoid arthritis; nor is it a cerebral meditation; nor an example of how to "make the best of a rotten situation." Far from any of these genres, it is a woman I haven't been this touched by a book since I read LIT, the memoir by Mary Carr. Avery's SONATA is at once deeply felt and light on its poetic feet, even playful, and I found myself putting little ticks in the margin for the lines that sang to me. I found myself in tears at parts; but this book is not a melodramatic tale of coping with rheumatoid arthritis; nor is it a cerebral meditation; nor an example of how to "make the best of a rotten situation." Far from any of these genres, it is a woman's deeply personal account of how she learned to create, build, rebuild, start over, and stay open and vulnerable and soft in the face of a cruel and unpredictable disease. I'm in awe, not just of her ability to craft a deeply meaningful life but to craft a book that I will probably push at everyone I know for the next month.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Stafford

    This is a beautifully written memoir of Avery's love of piano, and being devastated by rheumatoid arthritis at the tender age of 12 and watching it affect every part of her life, most importantly, her performance. She battles through the pain, the snapping tendons, the appendages that won't do her bidding, all while shifting her expectations and goals as she accepts things just won't get any better. The writing in this is gorgeous, especially if you have any knowledge of music (she describes man This is a beautifully written memoir of Avery's love of piano, and being devastated by rheumatoid arthritis at the tender age of 12 and watching it affect every part of her life, most importantly, her performance. She battles through the pain, the snapping tendons, the appendages that won't do her bidding, all while shifting her expectations and goals as she accepts things just won't get any better. The writing in this is gorgeous, especially if you have any knowledge of music (she describes many things in her life using musical terminology). As someone who studied piano quite fiercely myself at one point, and loved it beyond just about anything else, I could feel my heart breaking as she kept climbing musical mountains, only to hit a snag and go sliding back down again. What an amazing book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julianne Kavoussi

    ' But my experiences in this body has also made my brain richer and more layered and more empathetic." because " There was a painfully short before, and the rest came after." Thank you, Andrea. For many things. For validation, For putting down the words I also have wanted to say. You have also inspired me to sit at my piano and learn Schubert's piano sonata in B-flat major. 960. By the way, Franz Schubert's Symphony No.8 in B-minor. D 759, is commonly known as the Unfinished Symphony. written in ' But my experiences in this body has also made my brain richer and more layered and more empathetic." because " There was a painfully short before, and the rest came after." Thank you, Andrea. For many things. For validation, For putting down the words I also have wanted to say. You have also inspired me to sit at my piano and learn Schubert's piano sonata in B-flat major. 960. By the way, Franz Schubert's Symphony No.8 in B-minor. D 759, is commonly known as the Unfinished Symphony. written in 1822.Of course you know this already. There were only two movements documented. Schubert lived another 6 years and possibly did finish this work but did not have time to organize all the paper work together. With that said, you should finish his Unfinished Symphony for us. Your own composition and arrangement interwoven and advancing his work. You certainly have the talent. Cant wait to hear what you finish and what you write or compose in future. You certainly have a lovely and rich life filled with music and joy. Go forward and finish the symphony.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Allegra M.

    Sonata is gorgeously, lyrically written; simultaneously funny and gut-wrenchingly, heart-rendingly honest; resonant. Andrea Avery is a master of language and story-telling and so cleverly builds her story, weaving humor and music through each "movement." She elicits emotional goosebumps and even tears, through her incredible self-awareness, insightfulness, and the sheer power and artistry of her writing. I could put it down only because sleep is sort of important when you are trying to keep up w Sonata is gorgeously, lyrically written; simultaneously funny and gut-wrenchingly, heart-rendingly honest; resonant. Andrea Avery is a master of language and story-telling and so cleverly builds her story, weaving humor and music through each "movement." She elicits emotional goosebumps and even tears, through her incredible self-awareness, insightfulness, and the sheer power and artistry of her writing. I could put it down only because sleep is sort of important when you are trying to keep up with two young children, but I would otherwise have compulsively absorbed it all in one sitting. A must-read, and I will not be surprised when it hits the New York Times' Best Sellers list. Bravo.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    To me, this is a must read for those not touched by chronic illness, so that we all may understand one another a little bit better. For those affected by chronic or even serious illness, this memoir is full of empathy, understanding, frustration and joy. Andrea is a relatable narrator who takes us through her journey full of surprises, disappointments and triumphs. I want to send this book to everyone I know who is stuck in a body they feel has betrayed them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    This book was absolutely beautiful. I really loved it. I didn't just learn a lot about RA, but I learned more about the human experience and was really moved reading about Avery's life. Plus the writing was exquisite. (It seems ironic, but even the heartbreaking parts were a joy to read because of her beautiful writing.) I highly recommend this memoir -- for educators, for classical music lovers, for those with friends and family with chronic illness, for anyone and everyone! This book was absolutely beautiful. I really loved it. I didn't just learn a lot about RA, but I learned more about the human experience and was really moved reading about Avery's life. Plus the writing was exquisite. (It seems ironic, but even the heartbreaking parts were a joy to read because of her beautiful writing.) I highly recommend this memoir -- for educators, for classical music lovers, for those with friends and family with chronic illness, for anyone and everyone!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Green

    I'll definitely recommend this to people in my life. Lately I've found it rare to read memoirs thoroughly likeable and I'm totally charmed by Andrea Avery. The pull quote on the cover of my copy is from Elizabeth Gilbert, which says quite a lot about the book, I suppose. But regardless of any literary accolades I can give (and there are many) I needed a good reminder of how lucky I am to get to make music for hours a day without more than a little finger tension around hour six. I'll definitely recommend this to people in my life. Lately I've found it rare to read memoirs thoroughly likeable and I'm totally charmed by Andrea Avery. The pull quote on the cover of my copy is from Elizabeth Gilbert, which says quite a lot about the book, I suppose. But regardless of any literary accolades I can give (and there are many) I needed a good reminder of how lucky I am to get to make music for hours a day without more than a little finger tension around hour six.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Grace Brylinski

    I have never related so much to a book. In a way, the author and I have lived parallel lives. I also have polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and I am also a pianist. I love the way she speaks both about music and illness. She is beautifully eloquent in explaining how it feels to love music and to feel music and how much being chronically ill can affect your life. I’m excited to read anything else that she writes.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    This book provided me with so much insight into rheumatoid arthritis. I had no idea how very sick some people are with RA. The author was a budding concert pianist when she was diagnosed at age 12! RA gradually took much of the piano repertoire away from Andrea. She did a masterful job at weaving stories of other pianists who have suffered and also a Schubert sonata that eluded her due to her RA. I highly recommend this book!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Andrea is a gifted writer. Her ability to both break the heart and draw a laugh--often in the same sentence--is astounding. This memoir is captivating from page one. Where many memoirs almost read like diaries, hers is very much like a conversation. My only complaint is it eventually ended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    pianogal

    This one was heart-wrenching. As a pianist myself, I can't imagine having to give it up. And her injuries were also so random. Good read. This one was heart-wrenching. As a pianist myself, I can't imagine having to give it up. And her injuries were also so random. Good read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jana

    Memoir about a woman with RA and how this affected her life, especially her hopes and dreams at the piano.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    I got halfway through this book, but it didn't keep me interested enough to finish. I got halfway through this book, but it didn't keep me interested enough to finish.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Calleen Petersen

    A beautiful read.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...