Melting the Blues


Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
270 Pages
Reviewed on 03/27/2016
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers' Favorite

Melting the Blues by Tracy Chiles McGhee is a beautiful story set against the backdrop of Arkansas in the 1950s. Augustus Lee Rivers dreams of leaving his town and wants to fulfill his ambitions of reaching fame in Chicago. The Duncan family is his biggest fan in his small town of Chinaberry, and they call him the Hummin' Gutsy because of the way he hums the blues during performances. But things take a bad turn and his dreams of making it big remain a dream, like that of anyone from a black community. The story captures the essence of a certain time, place, and community where the pain, passion, and heartbreak make it tangible and palpable to readers.

I found the book fascinating with its layers of emotions, ranging from heartbreak to passion to transformation, and that, along with the characters, make this story a compelling read. The narration is descriptive, the scenes are vivid, and characters come alive. The author's fluidity in writing and exquisite language make this book a wonderful read. Augustus Lee Rivers and his good and faithful guitar will stay in the minds of readers for a long, long time. The plot has many twists and turns. The story has a gamut of emotions running through it - passion, acceptance, pain, heartbreak, transformation, and love, laced with rhythm and a lyrical quality that make the story and the characters convincing and relatable. The emotional journey is also reminiscent of the racial injustice that prevailed in the 1950s.

Kayti Nika Raet

Melting the Blues is the debut work of author Tracy Chiles McGhee and offers quite the literary punch. McGhee blazes onto the scene with a book set in Arkansas in 1957, during the height of racial strife. As the decision of Brown versus the Board of Education puts the Civil Rights movement on the national stage, Augustus Lee Rivers is a farmer and bluesman, a simple man and long time resident of the small town of Chinaberry, Arkansas. He has big dreams of becoming a famous musician in Chicago, even if it may mean leaving his family behind. But when his burning obsession leads to a terrible decision that nearly costs the lives of those he loves, he must look deep within himself to stitch back the gaping tear of betrayal.

Fully steeped in southern tradition and the African-American experience, Melting the Blues by Tracy Chiles McGhee is a multilayered drama about the importance of family, community, and reconciling with one's past. A tale full of redemption and love, Melting the Blues makes for a wonderful debut. I really enjoyed reading McGhee's novel, as well as getting into the heads of several of the characters, including Augustus's wife and children. In a way, Melting the Blues almost reads like a coming of age story, but instead of taking the reader on a journey of Augustus growing from a child to an adult, McGhee has us witness him as he shakes off the mental shackles of racial oppression. A fascinating, expertly written debut.