Lonesome Lies Before Us
Yadin Park is a talented alt-country musician whose career has floundered—doomed first by his homely looks and lack of stage presence and then by a progressive hearing disorder. His girlfriend, Jeanette Matsuda, might have been a professional photographer but for a devastating heartbreak in her teens. Now Yadin works for Jeanette’s father’s carpet-laying company in California while Jeanette cleans rooms at a local resort.When Yadin’s former lover and musical partner, the celebrated Mallory Wicks, comes back into his life, all their most private hopes and desires are exposed, their secret fantasies about love and success put to the test.Drawn to the music of indie singer-songwriters like Will Johnson, who helped shape the lyrics in this book, Don Lee has written a novel that unforgettably captures America’s deepest yearnings. Beautifully sad and laced with dark humor, Lonesome Lies Before Us is a profound, heartfelt romance, a soulful and memorable song.

Lonesome Lies Before Us Details

TitleLonesome Lies Before Us
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJun 6th, 2017
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
ISBN0393608816
ISBN-139780393608816
Number of pages336 pages
Rating
GenreFiction, Music, Literary Fiction, Adult Fiction, Romance

Lonesome Lies Before Us Review

  • Trish
    May 30, 2017
    Don Lee’s novels have always resonated with me and towards the end of his latest, I began to understand why. Lee is resolutely plebeian in his writing: he gives his characters, no matter how wealthy or learned, no place to hide from our judgments of them. The business of living is messy, he seems to say, though some might look like they have an easier time of it, it ain’t necessarily so. Lee also isn’t snooty about genre: there is a touch of romance hidden within the complexities of the married Don Lee’s novels have always resonated with me and towards the end of his latest, I began to understand why. Lee is resolutely plebeian in his writing: he gives his characters, no matter how wealthy or learned, no place to hide from our judgments of them. The business of living is messy, he seems to say, though some might look like they have an easier time of it, it ain’t necessarily so. Lee also isn’t snooty about genre: there is a touch of romance hidden within the complexities of the married lives he delivers in Lonesome. People aren’t settled, despite their legal status. The intensely personal and minutely calibrated nature of the characters Lee introduces, however, elevate his art above the ordinary. And reading his work is just fun.One of the things that Lee does exceptionally well in all his books is give us an idea of what exactly people do in their jobs, and what makes each job an opportunity for creativity and excellence. While many authors might hint at hidden depths, say, in cleaning a celebrity’s suite in a five-star hotel or in laying wall-to-wall carpet in a decaying hovel, Lee takes the worker’s eye view and relishes in explanations of how it can be done elegantly. It’s interesting. Readers develop understandings and sympathies where before there were none. (The government should hire Lee to analyze labor equivalencies in the workplace. We would come out with a far flatter and more just wage structure than we have today.)At heart, this novel is about the creative process and the winding path each person’s dreams take as their lives progress. Yadin was a musician ever since he can remember, writing songs, both lyrics and tunes, that people want to hear. He sang, too, but experienced such severe stage fright that it began to take a toll on his health. He had to quit touring, and his life narrowed to a pinpoint of casual work & sleep as he tried to cope with his illness. One day, chancing one day upon a few lines of spoken poetry, his capacity for song is awoken again. Poetry and song: the parallels are many. Those readers who relish language will love Lee’s focus on the way words work to draw us in, to inspire and delight us. In addition, there is something terribly exciting and beautiful about capturing the process of creation. Moments of creative flow described on the page are exhilarating for what similarities they bear to one's own experience. We don’t tire reading of someone who has managed to cobble together something unique from scraps; conversely we yearn for more. Yadin’s mind was busy with “a thread of melody noodling inside his head” as he lay carpet; he would stop to call his landline and leave a message of the tune so he wouldn’t forget. Later, a few words and phrases burbled up from his subconscious which he’d capture on a piece of masking tape with his Sharpie.Life is complex, and Lee relishes that complexity, carefully unpicking the tangled threads that got us from happy days of infatuation to a limping marriage, paradoxically featuring both not enough sex and too many children. His characters are irredeemably flawed, all of them, though they are talented enough that others may look to them to lead the way. Their failures are heartbreaking, and are perhaps as much like us individually as any characters in any book.If I have any criticism of this novel, it is Lee’s two strong female characters. Each is carefully drawn and multi-dimensional, Jeanette being Yadin’s long-time companion and the daughter of his boss. The slow reveal of her character’s history is fascinating in its surprises but one has the sense at the end that here is a woman struggling to free herself from a constricting web of her own making. I personally thought she was capable enough (at her age) to have made a more proactive choice than the one Lee chose for her. In the end, she was not an appealing partner for Yadin. Mallory, the celebrity folksinger, is familiar to the extent that we feel we may have met her before—her type, certainly. Mallory wanted authenticity in her art and had to settle for less to get by, but she was always looking for that real experience again. She had most of what she needed most of the time, but she was aging out of the business of love songs. Lee may have made her harder, less sympathetic, and less vulnerable than strictly necessary. I bought it all until the end when I thought she would have (at her age) made a different choice. This novel of sophisticated adult dilemmas gives us confused folks who make one choice as young adults and different choices in the fullness of years. Yadin was completely sure, in his later years, what he wanted. Lee did not tie his novel up neatly but showed us the messy lives of people making choices we don't like. If aspects of this novel had romance-genre undertones, the overtones were richer and deeper and far more complex.Another GR reviewer made the terrific suggestion that this novel would make a great indie film, and he is completely right. In the hands of the right actors, this is a star-making vehicle. All that unrequited or misdirected love can play out as music. An interview with Don Lee by Terry Hong on the Bookslut blog shows us how Lee agonizes over the publication process of novel-writing, a phenomenon which is examined more closely in this novel when Yadin writes a couple songs and then agonizes over their method of release.
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  • Dewitt
    April 26, 2017
    A gorgeous, solidly realized, and astonishing novel. Don Lee's masterpiece. Pick a passage: "People were often confounded by Yadin's singing voice, considering how soft-spoken and taciturn he was in conversation. It was a high baritone, big, commanding, splintered with husk and yearning. To unsuspecting listeners, it was a voice that belonged to a natural frontman, a heartbreaker, someone who ferried hidden vulnerabilities that drew women, even when they knew he wouldn't stay. It was a voice tha A gorgeous, solidly realized, and astonishing novel. Don Lee's masterpiece. Pick a passage: "People were often confounded by Yadin's singing voice, considering how soft-spoken and taciturn he was in conversation. It was a high baritone, big, commanding, splintered with husk and yearning. To unsuspecting listeners, it was a voice that belonged to a natural frontman, a heartbreaker, someone who ferried hidden vulnerabilities that drew women, even when they knew he wouldn't stay. It was a voice that belonged to someone better-looking." Or this one, also about the Yadin, who suffers from Meniere's disease: "Usually he had a minute or two before the spins would arrive, and he'd pull over if he was driving, or sit on the ground if he was walking, or lie down on his bed if he was in his apartment. Then the vertigo would engulf him, everything unspooling, pulsing, rupturing. It'd last anywhere between five minutes and several hours, and he'd be retching and heaving, and then afterward, drenched in sweat, he;d have to sleep for twelve hours straight, and he'd wake up the next morning feeling as if he'd been pummeled with tire irons." Every word is juste.
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  • Amanda Mae
    April 13, 2017
    This book found me at just the right moment. It's a contemplation of people between rocks and hard places who have to decide what their dreams are when faced with reality. Making a main character a musician just made me connect with it even more. It's sad and beautiful. I felt bursts of inspiration for my own projects while reading it, so I'm already indebted to the author for his creation. It also reminded me a lot of Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. For all the failed or aspiring indie musicians This book found me at just the right moment. It's a contemplation of people between rocks and hard places who have to decide what their dreams are when faced with reality. Making a main character a musician just made me connect with it even more. It's sad and beautiful. I felt bursts of inspiration for my own projects while reading it, so I'm already indebted to the author for his creation. It also reminded me a lot of Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. For all the failed or aspiring indie musicians out there who still have the creative urge even when faced with the drabness that life can be.
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  • Wesley
    March 8, 2017
    Lee is a great storyteller but this little guy just didn't feel as tight as his other work. Its pacing makes the book palatable and pleasurable to read and Lee's innate warmth is a real gift. Ultimately, though, the novel's emotional joints feel stiff and just aren't limber enough to invest too deeply.
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  • Amy
    May 22, 2017
    Despite talent, alt-country/Americana musician Yadin Park's musical career never took off due to his insecurities, lack of charisma and stage presence and then Meniere’s disease, a debilitating hearing disorder. Being a musician, an artist of any kind isn’t an easy profession. The music industry and the entertainment industry subsist mostly on the youth. It’s easy to age out of the music industry as it places a premium on youth and beauty and not always talent. Of course to maintain longevity on Despite talent, alt-country/Americana musician Yadin Park's musical career never took off due to his insecurities, lack of charisma and stage presence and then Meniere’s disease, a debilitating hearing disorder. Being a musician, an artist of any kind isn’t an easy profession. The music industry and the entertainment industry subsist mostly on the youth. It’s easy to age out of the music industry as it places a premium on youth and beauty and not always talent. Of course to maintain longevity one must possess talent. The entertainment industry can afford to be fickle as support then drop artists that don’t pull in money. How long does someone want to scrape by in hopes of quitting the day job? It’s infrequent that someone can do that. As author Don Lee stated at a recent book reading at Newtonville Books: “You have to have a certain amount of luxury and leisure to pursue those arts.” It’s true. While the starving artist sounds romantic, in reality it’s not comfortable or feasible for most people long-term.It’s a powerful novel with phenomenal writing and quiet, intense characterizations. As a music critic and book critic, novels about musicians always appeal to me. I also adored Don Lee’s gorgeous novel The Collective. One of my favorite authors, Lee’s writing dazzles me.complete review here: https://entertainmentrealm.com/2017/0...
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  • Andrienne
    June 10, 2017
    This book bottles up yearning and heartbreak into an engrossing story.
  • Daryl
    May 2, 2017
    I've been a fan of alt-country music since before it had that label, thanks to the Jayhawks and other bands of their ilk. When I saw the description for this novel ("A contemporary alt-country ballad of heartbreak, failure, love, and unquenchable yearning in novel form") on the Goodreads first-reads giveaway page, I had to enter. And I'm really glad I won. This is a superb novel. It tells the story of two underemployed, middle-aged people: Yadin, a failed former musician and songwriter who works I've been a fan of alt-country music since before it had that label, thanks to the Jayhawks and other bands of their ilk. When I saw the description for this novel ("A contemporary alt-country ballad of heartbreak, failure, love, and unquenchable yearning in novel form") on the Goodreads first-reads giveaway page, I had to enter. And I'm really glad I won. This is a superb novel. It tells the story of two underemployed, middle-aged people: Yadin, a failed former musician and songwriter who works for a carpet-laying company, and his uninspired and uninspiring girlfriend Jeanette, a former assistant records clerk for city hall who is currently working as a housekeeper at a hotel. These are the normal, everyday, blue-collar folks that one rarely encounters in novels (at least at the center of novels), and very rarely are they presented with such honesty, compassion, and insight with all their foibles and small triumphs. The novel details their current lives and through flashbacks shows us how they came to be who, what, and where they are today. The details and descriptions give such a clear picture that I could visualize every moment; this would make a great indie film - someone needs to grab those rights immediately. I loved the fact that each chapter had a title, and those titles were songs written by Yadin (each chapter title comes with a timing for the song - very clever). A very emotional and satisfying read.
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  • Eva
    June 6, 2017
    full disclosure: i took a fiction writing class with don lee while he taught at emerson college. but i don't think i'm biased, more than anything i was feeling trepidatious about reading this. his class gave me a lot of anxiety that i think remains unresolved. i requested lonesome lies before us because i can't resist fiction written about music, even though i'm not musical at all, i really enjoy how people write about music. in any case, the actual reading of this novel is a pleasure. it's easy full disclosure: i took a fiction writing class with don lee while he taught at emerson college. but i don't think i'm biased, more than anything i was feeling trepidatious about reading this. his class gave me a lot of anxiety that i think remains unresolved. i requested lonesome lies before us because i can't resist fiction written about music, even though i'm not musical at all, i really enjoy how people write about music. in any case, the actual reading of this novel is a pleasure. it's easy to be drawn into yadin's story. it's so easy to read this kind of writing, don lee knows his craft.but sometimes reading stories like this i wonder, if i read the first 10% and the last 10% will i have missed anything? i'm not sure i would have. contemporary literary fiction often leaves me feeling like this. as if the world were in stasis and where we end up is where we began.it's not that things don't happen. yadin is a washed out songwriter who has made a decent life for himself out of the ashes of his success. he's got a good job. he's got a girlfriend. he's managing his health. and he's writing music. good music he thinks. and sure he's racing against time to write all the songs he has down. his ménière's disease will take his hearing and with it his songs.so when he reconnects with his past life, he hovers on the verge of success again, and he has choices to make. what does he really want? fame? fortune? acclaim? could it really be that easy to pick up his life as a celebrity again? doesn't he prefer his life now?sometimes even if we know the answers we go through the motions of possibilities. but reality, truth is inescapable. yadin finds himself exactly where he needs to be. and if the title of his song, of his album seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy, so be it.**lonesome lies before us will publish on june 6, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/w.w. norton & company in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Nicki Markus
    June 7, 2017
    Lonesome Lies Before Us has a lot going for it. The story idea is interesting, and I loved the way Lee ties in with the ideas of alt-country music, making the novel mirror a song. As a keen amateur musician myself, I could appreciate Yadin's struggles and understand his predicament. Like most creatives, he's trapped between the desire to pursue his dreams and the realisation that such a life isn't financially viable. I enjoyed reading Yadin and Jeanette's tale, yet I would have liked to connect Lonesome Lies Before Us has a lot going for it. The story idea is interesting, and I loved the way Lee ties in with the ideas of alt-country music, making the novel mirror a song. As a keen amateur musician myself, I could appreciate Yadin's struggles and understand his predicament. Like most creatives, he's trapped between the desire to pursue his dreams and the realisation that such a life isn't financially viable. I enjoyed reading Yadin and Jeanette's tale, yet I would have liked to connect with them on a deeper level. Throughout, I felt that my care for them, and how their stories would end, was peripheral. For me, this book hovers between 3.5 and 4 stars. I would recommend it for readers of light literary fiction who are also into music and looking for tales in that setting.I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley.
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  • MR T C MELLOR
    June 16, 2017
    A melancholic beast of a novelDefinitely recognisable as a Don Lee book, but this one has a tinge of sadness and regret to it and less humour. Still absolutely recommended though, and with any luck it will bring him the wider audience he deserves.
  • Pat
    June 30, 2017
    Uneven.
  • Aaron Segal
    June 11, 2017
    Loved this book...and finished it off in one day.
  • Daniel Casey
    May 27, 2017
    Like the characters, this story never rises to what it could be & squanders what brilliance it has in favor of merely occupying space. A grand banality
  • Randy nixon
    June 11, 2017
    Slow down and think about the bookI nice story about dreams and regret. I would like to listen to the soundtrack and would love a sequel.
  • Marci
    February 16, 2017
    A bit slow at the start, but worth staying with. It's a good read.
  • Ted
    June 9, 2017
    Mark Athitakis rec
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