In Fred Preiss’s Country Singer, an unlikely bond forms between an ailing widower and a young woman seeking stardom in the world of country music.
Ed Goff, 70, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. While en route to his Illinois hometown, where he plans to attend Christmas Eve midnight mass, he offers a ride to 22-year-old Kristen. The two share amiable conversation, and Kristen openly reveals her dysfunctional home life and a past involvement with a drug addict.
Upon hearing Kristen’s beautiful, rich vocals, Ed agrees to drive Kristen to Las Vegas, where he knows from past experience as an ad man that he can help advance her singing career. During their time in platonically shared motel rooms, grand shopping sprees, and more, Ed is smitten with his “little precious thrush” as he affectionately refers to Kristen, and she in turn adores this rare benefactor. The journey is dotted with swigs of “Wild Turkey” that temporarily ease Ed’s physical pain, which Kristen believes is the consequence of a war injury. A meeting with a manager with major ties to the music world ultimately launches Kristen’s megastar career.
The narrative suffers from missing words, which can be distracting. Readers will also initially find it hard to believe that an individual would offer carte blanche in money and material goods to a total stranger.
As the story continues, however, a deep sense of love, caring, and friendship unfolds. Preiss poignantly presents a dying man’s desire to leave behind something noteworthy in this world — and a young girl working exhaustively to make that wish a reality. Even with their generational distance, the characters share genuine dialogue, conversations that are often endearing and sentimental, although sometimes cliché.
While the conclusion is predictable, Country Singer should appeal to those who appreciate the idea of following your heart, being uplifted by those who support your talents, and leaving behind a positive mark in the world.
Also available as an ebook.