Book Review: The Songs that Could Have Been by Amanda Wen
Wen’s debut was a surprising delight and I was eager to read her follow-up. This one can be read stand alone, however, don’t miss the first one as it’s fabulous. This story revolves around Lauren Anderson and her Grandma Rosie and the loves of their lives. Lauren is early 30s and Grandma Rosie is 85 and living with dementia.
Rosie’s story really grabbed my heart. She fell in love with a black man, Ephraim James, in the last year of school. It was the mid-1950s and in Wichita, Kansas a mixed relationship was unheard of and in fact frowned upon on both sides. Wen’s powerful story telling combined with her empathy and grace plus some great research really shone when we saw Rosie’s world back then. I also loved how Wen gave us an insight into Rosie’s 85 year old dementia-muddled mind. It was brilliant and eye-opening giving the reader a much better insight into the mind of one who has dementia.
Lauren’s love was local weatherman, Carter Douglas. They’d had a crazy 10 week courtship when they were late teens both starring in a local production of Fiddler on the Roof. Their breakup left some deep wounds for both of them. But Wen also explores other wounds and how addiction can manifest itself as a consequence. She also explores identity and God’s grace in helping us heal and recover.
Lauren and Carter’s romance didn’t grab me like Rosie and Ephraim’s did. It felt a bit immature and a little forced for the purposes of story. Certainly, Wen’s portrayal of brokenness, of acceptance and loving wisdom from others (take a bow Garrett and Jim Ford) were well presented.
There is heartbreak, some great questions asked about love and reflections on God’s grace and His ability to help us with our brokenness. Once again, Wen delivers a beautiful story that will linger for days after finishing it.
I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook copy from Kregel via Audra’s Jennings PR with no expectation of a favourable review.