I’m a big believer in the contract between an author and her readers. I thinks it’s important that, early on, the author lets the reader know just what kind of journey to expect. It’s a subtle thing and it can be a small one, but, to my mind, it’s often the difference between a successful book and one that is not so much.

Whether by instinct or design, in A Raw Mix of Carelessness and Longing (Brindle & Glass) Cecelia Frey nods her tacit agreement to this principle. By way of proof, I offer the opening lines:

Terrabain Street goes around and around in my head like a song I can’t get rid of. It’s driving me crazy, I said to Zeke. It’s like a stuck CD.

Write it down, Zeke said. Get it out of your head and down on paper.

I don’t know how, I said.

Write it like a song, he said. You’ve written a hundred songs.

With these few lines, Frey skillfully establishes a sense of rhythm and place for A Raw Mix of Carelessness and Longing because, even if we don’t know right away where Terrabain Street is fixed on terra firma, we understand spiritually where it is: almost every major city has one, or did at one time. A street or a district overcome by youth culture, the rhythms and spirit of a time.

And these are rhythms that are impossible to resist. At least, they were for me. Frey’s characterizations are raw and sweetly familiar. The reckless and daring Lilah Cellini in love with musician Jamey Popolowski. The realities of traveling with Jamey’s band ultimately help Lilah to a better understanding of what she herself needs.

Those who were moved by Michael Turner’s Hard Core Logo will find resonance in A Raw Mix of Carelessness and Longing. It’s a very different story and, certainly, a very different type of book but, in a few important ways, the journey is similar. Frey’s novel is a beautifully told coming of age story set against the grimy backdrop of the Western Canadian music scene. A hypnotic, memorable book.

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