The Soloist

Some of us loved the book; some of us found it flat. But it triggered an interesting conversation, as have so many books about which we’ve disagreed.

Priscilla and Terry, who didn’t care for the novel, and Olga, who liked it, were serious musicians until injuries prevented each from continuing to play. In the context of these experiences, we discussed what Maryellen felt was the heart of the novel — dealing with losses that are the inevitable byproducts of life. Maryellen was an athlete in her youth, and she’s found it difficult as she gets older to deal with the loss of her ability. Olga put it well — learning to cope with our losses is the key to maturity. The Soloist illustrates the process as Rennie, a former cello prodigy, while serving on a murder trial jury, comes to terms with his loss of ability and ambition.

Barbara linked the book with Salzman’s later work, Lying Awake. Both books explore the continuum between religious experience and insanity, and the difficulty of determining a clear demarcation between the two.

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