Author: Erin Bartels
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: January 17, 2023
It was just one of those nights. One of those crazy, impossible nights that change your life. Forever.
When guitarist Michael Sullivan gets kicked out of his band (and his apartment), landing a record deal seems an impossible dream. And nothing about Michael's prospects points toward a better future. Until the invitation for a swanky New Year's Eve party shows up in the mailbox. It's addressed to his uncle, with whom he shares both name and living space, but his uncle is going out of town . . .
On the effervescent night of December 31, 1989--as the Berlin Wall is coming down, the Soviet Union is falling apart, and anything seems possible--Michael will cross paths with the accomplished and enigmatic young heir to a fading musical dynasty, forever altering both of their futures.
Reviewer: Conny Withay
“Take advantage of anonymity while you have it. No one has any expectations of you. You can be anyone when you’re no one,” Michael is told in Erin Bartels’s novel, Everything Is Just Beginning.
This three-hundred-and-forty-one-page paperback targets those interested in a young man’s struggle with his past, trusting others, and overcoming guilt. With no profanity but the use of slang words such as dang, crap, and heck, topics of alcohol and drug use, illness, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending includes acknowledgments, an excerpt of the author’s prior novel, her biography, and advertisements.
In this story written in first person, twenty-two-year-old Michael Sullivan has been kicked out of the Detroit band he played in plus kicked out of his apartment. When he moves in with his uncle, he crashes a New Year’s Eve party across the street, hoping to meet a man who could launch his music career. Instead, he becomes involved with a family who is dealing with their own issues but in a healthy way that changes Michael’s mindset in more ways than one.
I have always enjoyed books written in first person, and this one is done well, showing the angst, anger, and affirmations of a young adult who thinks little of himself and sometimes others. I appreciate the handling of Natalie’s disability and the music of the late 1980s and early 1990s as well as the written-out songs. Explaining how grace and mercy are pivotal for forgiveness was nicely orchestrated.
Those who do not like a mostly secular tale of a guitarist trying to find self-worth may not appreciate this book. Others may not care for the few references of God, praying, and going to church. Some may be disappointed with the ending, wanting more resolution.
Although the author mentions eternal salvation, the story missed the mark on how to get it through trusting solely in Jesus Christ. I wish no slang words were included. Adding discussion questions at the end would be thoughtful for book clubs.
If you like a story about how a struggling, lonely musician creatively strums his insecurities into emotional art, this is an engaging read.
Thanks to Revell for this complimentary book.
Reviewer: Tammy Lunsford
Wow! I feel as though I have slipped back into 1989, where this book is set and lived for a few days! I was completely absorbed in this book from the first chapter. I sat in my chair and did not get up until I finished it!
Michael Sullivan has not had an easy life. His father left his mother before he was born. His mother had an entourage of boyfriends over the years and did not provide a good home for him. In the setting of this book, he has just been kicked out of his band and his apartment. His uncle (also named Michael, aka Mike) has allowed him to move in with him, but he calls him bad luck. He blames everything that has ever gone wrong in his life on Michael. By a stroke of luck, Michael intercepts an invitation to a New Year's Eve celebration that is actually addressed to Uncle Mike. This invitation is from the Wheeler family. They are a music industry dynasty, and they live right behind him.
Michael is a lyricist and a guitarist. He thinks that if he could get Dusty Wheeler to listen to one song, he could be a rockstar. He goes to the party, never realizing his life will change. That night he meets the daughter (Natalie) of the music superstar.
This book was so emotional. To me, music is almost a love letter written to someone. Erin Bartels smacks this out of the park with various emotions that leapt off the pages - sadness, happiness, anger, and so much more. You will need a box of Kleenex if you are an emotional person like me.
The character of Michael never felt like he belonged anywhere. I do not think he has ever felt true love from another human being. I wanted to cry for him and give him a hug. The character of Natalie was superb. She was full of life and so incredibly talented. I think my favorite character was Deb (Natalie's mother). This woman knew how to appreciate life and dispensed so much wisdom every time she spoke. This book sounded interesting when I read about it, but I honestly never dreamed I would LOVE it as I did.
If you are a music lover, you will inhale this book. If you are not a music lover, you will inhale this book. You just need a beating heart and two eyes to fully appreciate the message in this book.
Thank you to Revell books for a courtesy copy of this book through Interviews and Reviews. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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