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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Madame Curie's Piano Tuner by Steven Barron is a literary fiction novel of epic proportions that follows alongside, behind and often out ahead of one Raymond Dover, an amnesiac and member of the honorable profession of piano tuning, who happens to be an outsider in Nowhere, USA. Well, it's actually called Bucksnort, a 'dream town' laden with suspicion and mistrust that may or may not have more roads leading out of town than coming in. And also actually, Dover is there a little by accident, a little by design, and a lot because Barron obviously needed a narrator. Readers are given a fly-on-the-wall perspective in a series of mix-and-match vignettes that present the occurrence and recurrence of events in Bucksnort's odd continuum on daily life. Such is the uncertain time and oddity of Bucksnort proper that, for example, one Mr. Hirem Poteat, a psychic who can clearly state you are getting bike shorts for your birthday, has been a cattle rancher in the 1800s, lived through the Great Depression. and does Pilates circa 2018. These scenes vary where sometimes Dover is there and sometimes we don't know where or what he is. All we know for sure is that his interactions with and without the characters who make up Bucksnort are done for the readers' pleasure.
Somewhere between pages 300-500 of Madame Curie's Piano Tuner, I came across a line that completely contradicts absolutely everything author Steve Barron has compiled in this book: “Seriously brother, how hard is it to comprehend that getting bogged down in someone else’s ruin is a massive waste of everyone’s time and energy...” The irony. Seriously, this is hard to just make up. It is also hard to put this book down. The intelligence of wit and the dry humor tickles my little British heart, although I'm not sure how it will be received by the traitors of the American variety. For all of the beauty of Barron's prose, there is a propensity toward the overly verbose. This slows down the pace and, at risk of exposing myself as a bit of a simpleton here, I did have to take notes to remember who was who. I even lost track of Dover several times. Or perhaps he ditched me; who knows? That said, after all is said and written down, and a passage or two was read a couple more times, I laughed. I laughed a lot. I also had Be-Bop-a-Lula stuck in my head for days and was kind of OK with that. Madame Curie's Piano Tuner is not a fast read but it is a worthy one, and I'd give it a whole bucket of stars if I could.