Sierra Court Blues, by Lawrence Parlier
Sierra Court Blues by Lawrence Parlier is a stunning novel. We’re pulled in to a wild, chaotic world of young men and women, their music, their manias, their passion and their pain. The majority of the action takes place in a trailer owned by Jon, band member and long-time friend of the narrator, a very endearing soul named Bo Kinnealy. Their relationship is an endless series of ups and downs, punctuated with angry outbursts and a few thrown punches. Bo believes in taking responsibility, Jon is challenged in this particular area, to say the least.
Bo has more than enough on his plate. His musical ambitions take center stage. Then there’s his wife, who’s not exactly happy about his wanting to make his band into something people will remember and follow. They have a little boy, Kirby. His wife announces that she’s pregnant, and there’s even more pressure put on Bo. Oh, and he works full-time, too. Caught up in web of increasingly competing demands, tempers flare and Bo’s wife shows him the door. Then she practices the age-old art of emotional blackmail. She won’t let him see their son unless he coughs up the money she wants and is convinced she deserves.
After Bo moves in with Jon, and Jon’s romantic mishaps continue to make a peaceful existence impossible, Bo’s commitment to his music intensifies. So does the pressure put on him by his wife. Even as two new women become romantic possibilities for Bo, Jon’s escapades make any sort of peaceful home life impossible. The band gets an invitation to play at a Fourth of July party with a large, enthusiastic audience. After they wrap up, a fight breaks out between the main woman in Jon’s life and one he was seeing on the side.
Bo puts his foot down and insists that Jon clean up his act, knowing the odds of his doing so are very slim. The summer winds down, another gig is lined up for the band, and Bo demands discipline and good behavior from Jon. Their performance is an epic success which is quickly overshadowed by a catastrophic display of violence.
While Bo struggles to make sense of the events that have changed his life, he examines the role he’s played in the lives of those closest to him. His reflections are both heart-rending and productive, and he sees how his drive to succeed in his musical career has been hard for others to take. The future won’t necessarily be smooth, but it will be far better informed.
Reading Sierra Court Blues is like experiencing rock music at its best. It’s loud, strained, soulful, interspersed with moments of tenderness and longing. It both assaults and soothes. And most importantly, it reminds us that being young can be both glorious and terrifying.