The first time I cried while reading Sarah McCarry's extraordinary debut novel, All Our Pretty Songs, was on page six. It wasn't even at a sad part. It was a small scene, the kind of beat that in the hands of a lesser writer would have barely registered. It was a moment in a friendship, the friendship of the narrator and Aurora, and McCarry's writing made me recognize that moment in a visceral, physical way. I had had that friendship. I had been that girl.
In a way, reading All Our Pretty Songs was, for me, like coming home. Home had turned slantwise and strange, and there were shadows in corners, and voices in hallways that I didn't recognize, but this was a place that I knew. Yet for all of that recognition, for all of the layers of references - and this is a book that is steeped in mythology, both ancient and modern - this was a story that felt fresh. The people living in McCarry's world make their own stories.
I could tell you the easy, elevator pitch version - this is the Orpheus myth, set in the modern Pacific Northwest. And it is that, and very well done indeed. But it is also a book that is deeply about the nature of friendship. It is also a book that is deeply about the nature of art, and the sacrifices that are necessary to make art, and how those sacrifices, those choices, have ripples that push out from the moment the choice is made. McCarry's language is wonderful - precise and evocative. She conjures place and character so strongly I would only have been a little surprised had the pages actually bled.
There are books that you come across sometimes that you recognize as friends, that you feel like were written just for you. All Our Pretty Songs is one of those books for me. I already want to reread it. It's the sort of book I will buy multiple copies of, and press upon my friends. It's incredibly powerful, and somehow, it is home.
All Our Pretty Songs will be out in July. You can pre-order it here, and I strongly suggest that you do.