You’ve devoted your life to your two kids, who are finally out of the house and living their own lives. The only thing on your agenda is a carefree summer with your boyfriend at your summer house in Connecticut. Life is good…until said boyfriend breaks up with you via email and your kids are back with crises of their own.
So begins Musical Chairs, a new novel by Amy Poeppel (Small Admissions).
The heroine in question is Bridget Stratton, a cellist and single mother to twenty-something twins. Her novelist boyfriend, Sterling, has all the trappings of ‘the one,’ but chooses to heed the advice of his ex-wife and break things off. (“He was one of those stupid men who thought he was smart. A weak man who thought he was tough. He had a fragile ego, and what he wanted was a mother, not an equal,” notes Bridget’s housekeeper, Marge.)
Heartbroken and mortified, Bridget heads to Connecticut anyway, hoping to distract herself. There, she has a shoulder to cry on in Will, her longtime best friend, with whom she founded The Forsyth Trio, a chamber group, at Juilliard. Bridget has never been married, Will is divorced and everyone thinks they’re secretly in love with each other. (Spoiler alert: They’re not. And kudos to Poeppel for focusing on deep friendship rather than a cliché ‘You’ve been here all along’ moment.)
As the summer progresses, people and problems come and go, and Bridget is forced to mend her broken heart while dealing with her elderly father’s forthcoming wedding and the pressure to fill the third spot in the Forsyth Trio. This plotting is fun, for sure, but it’s Bridget’s relationships with those around her—especially Will—that make the book shine, as well as Poeppel’s memorable supporting characters.
Light and quick-to-finish, Musical Chairs—like all of Poeppel’s work—is witty, relatable and well-paced. It’s also a good reminder that, rather than pushing life’s messiness away, sometimes it’s best to embrace it.