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The Music Room

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In an incredible novel of devastating beauty, Martin Lambert must come to terms with the aftermath of his brother's suicide. Replaying sad melodies of his affluent youth, Martin embarks on a poignant journey through his family's haunted past--an unforgettable voyage of self-discovery that leads him from a childhood tainted by shocking parental abuse to a present clouded by In an incredible novel of devastating beauty, Martin Lambert must come to terms with the aftermath of his brother's suicide. Replaying sad melodies of his affluent youth, Martin embarks on a poignant journey through his family's haunted past--an unforgettable voyage of self-discovery that leads him from a childhood tainted by shocking parental abuse to a present clouded by alcoholic despair and desperate love - and, ultimately, toward a future of understanding, redemption and hope.


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In an incredible novel of devastating beauty, Martin Lambert must come to terms with the aftermath of his brother's suicide. Replaying sad melodies of his affluent youth, Martin embarks on a poignant journey through his family's haunted past--an unforgettable voyage of self-discovery that leads him from a childhood tainted by shocking parental abuse to a present clouded by In an incredible novel of devastating beauty, Martin Lambert must come to terms with the aftermath of his brother's suicide. Replaying sad melodies of his affluent youth, Martin embarks on a poignant journey through his family's haunted past--an unforgettable voyage of self-discovery that leads him from a childhood tainted by shocking parental abuse to a present clouded by alcoholic despair and desperate love - and, ultimately, toward a future of understanding, redemption and hope.

30 review for The Music Room

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    The author does an incredible job of telling the story of a dysfunctional family. In speaking the story through the alcohol blurred mind of Marty, the events unfold, fold and refold in and around each other in such a way that the waves of emotion can almost be felt by the reader. To say that this family drinks too much is a gross understatement. I kept wanting to beg Marty to stop drinking. The struggle to understand his brother's despair and death was so inhibited by his constant inebriated sta The author does an incredible job of telling the story of a dysfunctional family. In speaking the story through the alcohol blurred mind of Marty, the events unfold, fold and refold in and around each other in such a way that the waves of emotion can almost be felt by the reader. To say that this family drinks too much is a gross understatement. I kept wanting to beg Marty to stop drinking. The struggle to understand his brother's despair and death was so inhibited by his constant inebriated state. But as the story unwinds, all of the pieces, including the root cause of Marty's feelings of failure and rejection make sense. Although deep and dark, I couldn't put this book down.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julaine

    This is a beautifully written book with extraordinary emotional power. I can compare it's overwhelming ability to move me only with that of the consuming power of a great piece of music. Like a powerful piece of music, The Music Room induces feelings of such depth without a specific, identifiable source. McFarland's ability to express the layers of human emotion is remarkable and makes The Music Room one of those exceptional books in which you can truly become engrossed. This is a beautifully written book with extraordinary emotional power. I can compare it's overwhelming ability to move me only with that of the consuming power of a great piece of music. Like a powerful piece of music, The Music Room induces feelings of such depth without a specific, identifiable source. McFarland's ability to express the layers of human emotion is remarkable and makes The Music Room one of those exceptional books in which you can truly become engrossed.

  3. 4 out of 5

    jennybek

    I did enjoy the book. I could have done without some of the more graphic scenes. Being a bit more sensitive, I don't enjoy explicit or gory scenes in books or movies. That said, if these things don't bother you, this book would be enjoyable. The story of finding the reason for his brother's death was a good one. Getting flashbacks along the way helps you to get to know the characters involved. I did enjoy the book. I could have done without some of the more graphic scenes. Being a bit more sensitive, I don't enjoy explicit or gory scenes in books or movies. That said, if these things don't bother you, this book would be enjoyable. The story of finding the reason for his brother's death was a good one. Getting flashbacks along the way helps you to get to know the characters involved.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    "The Music Room", a dramatic, compulsive read. A profound look into childhood and memories that are stored, distorted, imagined, and untrue. A hard look at flawed parenting, alcoholism and its inherent history. A recognition that the human psyche: fragile and sensitive, struggles constantly for power and dominance. "The Music Room", a dramatic, compulsive read. A profound look into childhood and memories that are stored, distorted, imagined, and untrue. A hard look at flawed parenting, alcoholism and its inherent history. A recognition that the human psyche: fragile and sensitive, struggles constantly for power and dominance.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    “She nodded, then said, ‘No note. Boy, is that ever like him. You know, I think I’ll write the story of your brother’s life and call it ‘No Note’’” (45). “We would never have survived a public school, sheltered as we are by the roomy sanctuary of extreme privilege” (69). “...her voice of midnight blue (my favorite crayon as a boy” (125). “Gasser, elderly, bald, a prolific prescription writer of dubious medical skills...” (136-137). “The bartender's simple question 'Lime?' seemed loaded with implicat “She nodded, then said, ‘No note. Boy, is that ever like him. You know, I think I’ll write the story of your brother’s life and call it ‘No Note’’” (45). “We would never have survived a public school, sheltered as we are by the roomy sanctuary of extreme privilege” (69). “...her voice of midnight blue (my favorite crayon as a boy” (125). “Gasser, elderly, bald, a prolific prescription writer of dubious medical skills...” (136-137). “The bartender's simple question 'Lime?' seemed loaded with implication. What would it mean about me if I said yes?” (142). “I have said that with Father's passing, so passed his spirit. Ironically, sadly, it was the impact of his death, not of his life, that endured. His death had fallen on us like a moon falling into the sea whose tides it used to govern—displacing us, setting us loose, sending us thousands of miles apart. And, more or less, we stayed that way” (173). “I seemed to have found a target for the poison spear of my anger” (182). “The portions of the liturgy in plainsong were so ardently sung as to seem almost untamed, on the brink” (188). "Though I suppose I must have been happy to have been allowed to enter the building, as I rode an elevator to the fourth floor it seemed insulting to have been so quickly judged harmless by the security guard" (200). “I'd been asked to wait—which I did indignantly, next to a planter of dusty plastic delphiniums in a the orange-carpeted lobby...” (206). “Wasn't my behavior of the last few hours only the culmination of a lifetime of misguided stupidity? Wasn't I doomed to bungle things?” (209). “I don't know how much I drank, but I did it earnestly, with so grim a sense of purpose that it felt like a punishment” (210). “Today he plays Beethoven. I will soon turn six, and I know Ludwig von Beethoven, both the music and the man, the deaf composer, though when I was a bit younger I occasionally confused him with the inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison, who lost his hearing as a boy when he was pulled by the ears onto the back of a moving train. This did not happen to Beethoven—it happened only to Thomas Edison—but I still have to remind myself of that now and then. I have a child's artistic impulse to marry the two events, the composition and the moving train. And I am very fond of imagining deafness” (223). "He'd been telephoning Mother to ask if she knew where to find me, and he hadn't expected em to answer the phone. Caught off guard, he couldn't quite correct his tone of repugnance" (234). "He said, Where the hell are you? I said he should know the answer to that question, considering that he'd just dialed my home in Norfolk" (234). "...I am filled with the faith and quiet confidence that belongs to those who were given the heart and willingness to survive, to those given the great fortune to have continued" (262).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    The Music Room by Dennis McFarland is a recommended novel that focuses on a dysfunctional family of alcoholics. Marty Lambert's life is already in shambles when he receives the call informing him that his brother, Perry has committed suicide in NYC. Marty, a record producer in San Francisco, and his wife are divorcing and he has already started to reduce his possessions down to 2 suitcases when he recieves the phone call that sends him to NYC to try and figure what lead his younger brother to app The Music Room by Dennis McFarland is a recommended novel that focuses on a dysfunctional family of alcoholics. Marty Lambert's life is already in shambles when he receives the call informing him that his brother, Perry has committed suicide in NYC. Marty, a record producer in San Francisco, and his wife are divorcing and he has already started to reduce his possessions down to 2 suitcases when he recieves the phone call that sends him to NYC to try and figure what lead his younger brother to apparently commit suicide. When he arrives in NYC, Marty finds no easy answers explaining the reason for Perry suicide. He does meet Perry's girlfriend, Jane Owlcaster, and inherits his dog. Perry's death leaves Marty with a mystery that he is determined to solve, although he goes about it in a befuddled, self-examination kind of trance rather than face his need for mourning. As Marty seeks answers, along the way he also reminisces about the past and recalls the neglectful, turbulent upbringing he and Perry experienced in a family of alcoholics. As can often be the case some of the answers may be found in the past. Or maybe there are no real answers to be found. Marty must also face his own inherited legacy of alcoholism. McFarland's beautifully expressive prose carries the novel while the narrative itself can be trying. Reading about a family of wealthy, self-centered alcoholics doesn't usually guarantee any great connection with the characters for me. Although I certainly felt empathy for Marty, I grew weary of him wallowing in his unhappiness as he explored his emotions. That said, there are some very poignant scenes with a keen insight into these deeply flawed characters. Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Open Road Media via Netgalley for review purposes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    steen

    After his brother's suicide, Marty Lambert is set adrift, lost and lonely and desperately seeking some sort of closure. He backtracks through his brother Perry's life as well as his own while trying to figure out his future. Dennis McFarland presents a trouble cast of characters: Marty's parents are wealthy, depressed alcoholics, Jane Owlcaster is Perry's girlfriend who has fallen for Marty, and Marty is left to pick up the pieces when it all crashes. Dennis McFarland's prose is beautiful and hau After his brother's suicide, Marty Lambert is set adrift, lost and lonely and desperately seeking some sort of closure. He backtracks through his brother Perry's life as well as his own while trying to figure out his future. Dennis McFarland presents a trouble cast of characters: Marty's parents are wealthy, depressed alcoholics, Jane Owlcaster is Perry's girlfriend who has fallen for Marty, and Marty is left to pick up the pieces when it all crashes. Dennis McFarland's prose is beautiful and haunting. While the story was a little too melancholy for me, it's a wonderful look into a dysfunctional family and how the past has lead to each character's internal struggle and guilt with regards to Perry's sad demise. ** I received an ARC from NetGalley.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lydia Presley

    Sometimes I pick up a book and, in spite of it and my best intentions, we don't click. I thought The Music Room was off to a running start when I began to read the story of a man who had just learned that his brother took his own life - I mean, that's a hard-hitting entrance to a story, right? Unfortunately (and this is not a morbid joke), everything went down from that high moment. I struggled with The Music Room , folks. This one slowed me down, big time, and honestly - for a while, it made me Sometimes I pick up a book and, in spite of it and my best intentions, we don't click. I thought The Music Room was off to a running start when I began to read the story of a man who had just learned that his brother took his own life - I mean, that's a hard-hitting entrance to a story, right? Unfortunately (and this is not a morbid joke), everything went down from that high moment. I struggled with The Music Room , folks. This one slowed me down, big time, and honestly - for a while, it made me regret even trying to carve out time to read. Read the rest of this review at The Lost Entwife on Feb. 22, 2014.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    A devastating story of the firewalk of grief, what it does to memories, what it does to identity, and the desperate reach for light at the end of the tunnel. As Martin learns that his only sibling has jumped off a building in NYC, he begins his journey of remembrance thru a horribly dysfunctional childhood, with two raging alcoholic parents , and must face a misunderstanding that has colored his life. Moments of pathos and moments of beauty, this is a skillfully written, and ultimately hopeful n A devastating story of the firewalk of grief, what it does to memories, what it does to identity, and the desperate reach for light at the end of the tunnel. As Martin learns that his only sibling has jumped off a building in NYC, he begins his journey of remembrance thru a horribly dysfunctional childhood, with two raging alcoholic parents , and must face a misunderstanding that has colored his life. Moments of pathos and moments of beauty, this is a skillfully written, and ultimately hopeful narrative.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    More than once during this reading I thought about quitting. Who needs to read a book about a family of rich alcoholics? But the writing was so good I kept plugging away, and now I'm glad I did, for the ending is excellent. Hard to believe this was the author's first book, and not autobiographical. By the end of the book you feel as though, not that you know the characters, but that you have actually lived with them! Actually an interesting book. More than once during this reading I thought about quitting. Who needs to read a book about a family of rich alcoholics? But the writing was so good I kept plugging away, and now I'm glad I did, for the ending is excellent. Hard to believe this was the author's first book, and not autobiographical. By the end of the book you feel as though, not that you know the characters, but that you have actually lived with them! Actually an interesting book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Had to give this book five stars..McFarland is a brilliant writer. Hard to believe this was his first book (1990). His writings come from the dark side of human nature. Sad but so well crafted you have to keep reading. Or at least I did. I love his style... This story centers around a very strange family wondering the whys of a suicide and of a brother who is lost with his own demons but finds his way to redemption....

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    This book kept my attention from the beginning, which, considering the depressing main character, was quite commendable on the part of the author. I guess the main theme is dealing with devastating grief. This book also touched on how misinterpretations of things we witnessed as children can scar us well into our adult years if they are never spoken of and resolved. I was glad for the up lifting ending for sure!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter Allum

    A multi-generational story of a wealthy family with lives ruined by alcoholism. Some Southern gothic touches. The main protagonist is not particularly likeable, self-absorbed and self-pitying. Overall, the novel seems to be reaching for important messages, but falls short. The uplifting ending seems contrived. I would rate it a two-star, but it is well-written.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Valley Haggard

    in mood and essence the music room reminds me of herman hesse, oddly enough. It's like a surreal dream mixed with a bag of candy you can't stop eating. I loved it. And when I met Dennis McFarland at the JRW festival last year, he was super nice. I bought one of his newer books but haven't read it. in mood and essence the music room reminds me of herman hesse, oddly enough. It's like a surreal dream mixed with a bag of candy you can't stop eating. I loved it. And when I met Dennis McFarland at the JRW festival last year, he was super nice. I bought one of his newer books but haven't read it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Saliba

    A beautifully written book with a wonderful ending. It is hard to believe that this is McFarland's first book. The good news is that he has written more. I will definitely be adding some of his other titles to my to-read list. A beautifully written book with a wonderful ending. It is hard to believe that this is McFarland's first book. The good news is that he has written more. I will definitely be adding some of his other titles to my to-read list.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Because I thoroughly enjoyed a couple of McFarland's books (Letter From Point Clear and Prince Edward), I thought I'd try McFarland's debut novel, published in 1990. MdFarland's writing is lovely from the get-go, but I was not thrilled with this book. Because I thoroughly enjoyed a couple of McFarland's books (Letter From Point Clear and Prince Edward), I thought I'd try McFarland's debut novel, published in 1990. MdFarland's writing is lovely from the get-go, but I was not thrilled with this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I didn’t really care for it. Happy that I finished it. Everyone in the book is drunk.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    It's been 12 years and I still haven't finished it, so I'm officially abandoning it It's been 12 years and I still haven't finished it, so I'm officially abandoning it

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Crosbie

    For me, the main attraction to this book that was published in 1990, was the fact that this protagonist's family were musical. They were not famous and did not play professionally, but they didn't need to earn their livelihoods through their music. They were independently wealthy, which hindered rather than helped their lives., a.k.a. their excessive alcohol consumption. There was enough in this story to keep me engaged, although a couple of times I felt their was a lot of filler dragging the st For me, the main attraction to this book that was published in 1990, was the fact that this protagonist's family were musical. They were not famous and did not play professionally, but they didn't need to earn their livelihoods through their music. They were independently wealthy, which hindered rather than helped their lives., a.k.a. their excessive alcohol consumption. There was enough in this story to keep me engaged, although a couple of times I felt their was a lot of filler dragging the story along and was tempted to give up on the story. I'm glad I did finish the book. Everything tied up realistically and satisfactorily for this reader. I'm sure my interest in classical music helped me hang in to the end. I'm not sure people who are unfamiliar with classical music will want to finish this book, however.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn

    I do enjoy novels that are written like this one. One point of view, but it goes beyond that. Introspective, meandering memories, pieces of the puzzles of past events falling into place with new information. A changing perspective on what was previously assumed and believed. The character learns and grows as a person, old wrongs are righted, or at least understood. There is hope. In this story Marty struggles to understand what drove his younger brother to suicide, while at the same time Marty's I do enjoy novels that are written like this one. One point of view, but it goes beyond that. Introspective, meandering memories, pieces of the puzzles of past events falling into place with new information. A changing perspective on what was previously assumed and believed. The character learns and grows as a person, old wrongs are righted, or at least understood. There is hope. In this story Marty struggles to understand what drove his younger brother to suicide, while at the same time Marty's whole life is falling apart and he is battling his alcoholism. I can't think of a scenario more in need of hope than this.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennice Mckillop

    Talk about a dysfunctional family! Good grief. I had to skip some of the details due to “too much info “. No reason why Perry died, and the search for that info became a back drop for exploration of the family dynamics. I was actually expecting the drunken Marty to do himself in. Glad he didn’t and glad he came to see the light that entered his life. The gift his brother left him. Not fond of the other characters at all. Not a single one of them. A novel full of horrible people. Well, except Ra Talk about a dysfunctional family! Good grief. I had to skip some of the details due to “too much info “. No reason why Perry died, and the search for that info became a back drop for exploration of the family dynamics. I was actually expecting the drunken Marty to do himself in. Glad he didn’t and glad he came to see the light that entered his life. The gift his brother left him. Not fond of the other characters at all. Not a single one of them. A novel full of horrible people. Well, except Raymond. And Molly - the dog.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary Crotty

    interesting writing but no resolution

  23. 5 out of 5

    DIANE KOZIOL

    A little dark but good.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Enia

    I was drawn in by the title and then captured by the beauty and heartache of this very human story.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Virginia Nichols

    Well-written, but depressing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Beautifully written story dealing with dysfunction, alcoholism, suicide and grief.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susan Emmet

    I was entirely captivated by this novel, a hard read, but a fine one, filled with incredibly musical notes and evocative language. I found the book lurking on a shelf at the library, last read in 2011, only 15 times since 1990. But it's a fine book, well worth still reading. The story of the Lamberts of Virginia, of their alcoholic lives that ended in disaster, and of their surviving son, Marty, who is called to New York after his brother Perry's suicide. The story unfolds through the lens and str I was entirely captivated by this novel, a hard read, but a fine one, filled with incredibly musical notes and evocative language. I found the book lurking on a shelf at the library, last read in 2011, only 15 times since 1990. But it's a fine book, well worth still reading. The story of the Lamberts of Virginia, of their alcoholic lives that ended in disaster, and of their surviving son, Marty, who is called to New York after his brother Perry's suicide. The story unfolds through the lens and struggle of Marty. He tries to figure out, wave by wave, note by note, the "truth" behind his family and himself. Most of the novel is deeply disturbing and horrible because that's the story. But the conclusion is redemptive and hopeful and the reader is left with a sense that one can rise above tragedy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Cooper

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. For all the painful, @ times comical, convolutions Marty goes through~~the writing carried me along @ a fair pace to where he wound up with some peace--With Molly (the dog) & the music/therapy school his brother had supported.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This was a rather depressing book as it deals with a brother coming to grips with his father's death due to alcoholism as well as the death of his brother of suicide. He himself has become an alcoholic as is his mother. The characters the family surround themselves with are odd, unlikeable and also alcoholics.There are saving graces as he gets sober and discovers small stories that reveal how much his father loved his sons and what a kind man he was. Hopeful ending was appreciated after the angs This was a rather depressing book as it deals with a brother coming to grips with his father's death due to alcoholism as well as the death of his brother of suicide. He himself has become an alcoholic as is his mother. The characters the family surround themselves with are odd, unlikeable and also alcoholics.There are saving graces as he gets sober and discovers small stories that reveal how much his father loved his sons and what a kind man he was. Hopeful ending was appreciated after the angst of the book. 3-

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    By page two we learn that the main character, Martin, is separated and will most likely soon be divorced from his wife and that his only brother, Perry, has killed himself. The rest of the book is Martin’s quest to come to terms with both these issues and the childhood trauma of growing up in an alcoholic family. The reader follows Martin as he takes the necessary steps to address his brother’s death

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