Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Literally the Best Reviews: Lay Down Your Weary Tune

Lay Down Your Weary Tune -- W.B. Belcher

Other Press
384 Pages

Once in awhile when skimming the New Books shelves at the Lockport Library, I run across a book that just looks cool by virtue of its cover. Then I see the title, and I know that this is a book I want to read. Such is the case with Lay Down Your Weary Tune by W.B. Belcher. Without reading the summary, I had visions of fictional tales of Pete Seeger, Richie Havens, or Bob Dylan. So, the book went into the pile and came home with me.

Eli Page is a musician who lives in the shadows. A mythos has been constructed around him amid which the truth has been lost and rewritten. It comes down to Jack Wyeth to shuffle through the stories and find the true life of Eli Page. Hired to write the story of the elusive folk singers, Wyeth also has to look into his own past. Their paths have crossed before, and it is those crossings where the truth is hidden.

Wyeth finds himself living in Page’s barn as the chronicler of the musician’s life before Alzheimer’s took all the memories away. In the small town where Page lives, the duo are looked upon with derision, as it appears that Page may hold secrets that the townspeople don’t want uncovered. And while love may flourish in the confines of Galesburg, it doesn’t always mean that it’s safe for the prospective lovers.

What secrets does Eli Page have in his deteriorating that the town feels is better left unsaid, and how does that relate to Wyeth’s late, estranged father? It is these questions that drive the story forward. As Wyeth questions his place on Page’s life, and as he learns more and more about the reasons why his musical hero ended up in a tiny, woebegone town like Galesburg, the more he finds his own place in life.

Lay Down Your Weary Tune is W.B. Belcher’s debut novel. If this output is any indication of the riches that rest in his imagination, there will only be greatness coming from Belcher’s pen. With Jack Wyeth, Belcher creates a character who reveals himself to the reader little by little, like peeling away layers of onion. In the end, we’re left with a rich character haunted by his choices in life. Each decision is a struggle that makes him all the more life-like.

The author writes the book in the prose of Americana that draws the reader in with its simple, straight-forward action. The intricacies of the storyline weave back and forth, leaving the reader to wonder right along with Wyeth where exactly the truth lies. We go through every twist and turn and wonderment that the protagonist does. In the end, the truth is stranger than fiction, and this is some fine fiction.

If you’re a music guy like me, and like to follow the itinerant bard, then this might be the book for you. Part mystery, part love story, and a big part of down home, American life, Lay Down Your Weary Tune by W.B. Belcher is a great story that studies human nature. It is well done and well worth the read.
Next Week: The Bones Will Speak -- Carrie Stuart Parks

Craig Bacon should have been a rock star. Could you imagine the stories?