Author Bruce J. Berger’s The Music Stalker, is a novel about a family blessed with intelligence and musical talent, but also beset by mental illness.
The story is relayed by Max Covo in a letter to his estranged children. Max is the son of Adel and Nicky Covo and older brother to Kayla Covo. Max’s letters are interspersed with chapters narrated by other family members.
As a child, Max is thought to be a gifted pianist, but when Kayla shows even more talent, his efforts are overshadowed and ultimately put aside. As Kayla is groomed to become a concert pianist, the family copes with Adel’s schizophrenia. While she manages a somewhat normal life with medication, when rattled Adel tends to speak in rhymes and imagines she can fly with the birds. She is usually brought to earth by her husband, a psychiatrist who loves his family but is shadowed by the dark history of his family and the Holocaust.
The teenaged Kayla, however, flourishes; her reputation grows and soon she is touring. But when she begins to show signs of paranoia and mental instability, Max takes notice and begins his efforts to rescue her. Meanhile, Kayla struggles for independence as she develops a thirst for spiritual knowledge and begins meeting secretly with a local rabbi.
This is a thoughtfully wrought tale of a loving but troubled family. Of particular interest is the colorful Adel. Despite her mental health issues, she has sharp self-awareness and brings a light touch of humor with her outlook on the world and her rhyming commentary. When Kayla leaves for a two-month tour, she says, “Well, she flies away. Chirp, chirp. Fuck a duck.”
The writing is crisp and the plot thorough, however, the shifts in viewpoint, time and tense can be confusing initially and the narrator’s occasional commentary is unnecessary and interrupts the story’s flow.
Those issues aside, this is an engaging read that should appeal to a wide audience.
Also available as an ebook.