Dec 20, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
The Trumpet Lesson intertwines the activities of a lost dog, an eccentric friend, a bi-racial trumpet player, a street kid and the Jehovah's Witnesses. All the action is perceived by a chipped statue of a jaguar who often passes judgment on the proceedings.
Callie Quinn is a translator of Spanish and French and has abandoned her Chicago roots and slipped away to a small colonial town in the Mexican highlands called Guanajuato. The area is known for its stunning geography and its love of international art, music and literature. The author, Dianne Romain, actually lives there so the reader is given a certain authentic flavor for the novel's setting. Callie is obviously a tortured and guarded soul. Her best friend is Armando who is gay but struggling with his orientation. To call him eccentric is a euphemism, he is terminally bizarre but delightful. When Callie hears a trumpet player, Pamela, blowing out a poignant rendition of "The Lost Child" on her horn in the town square, she decides she must have a trumpet lesson from her. Her stern, controlling father had played the trumpet and she had purchased one recently from Juanito the scamp who periodically sells her damaged goods. This inflames Armando because he believes that Pamela has stolen his dog, Tevele'. To further his dislike of Pamela he feels that she has besmirched the integrity of the maestro of the orchestra that they are both members of. The Jehovah's Witnesses thicken up the plot nicely and before the last page Callie's newly affianced mother arrives on the scene as does Pamela's mother and Callie is rescued from an avocado tree by the Witnesses themselves. Although some of the situations may sound comical and indeed they are, the novel can also be serious and intense and deal with issues surrounding family, adoption, racism, homosexuality and the mystery of all encompassing love.
Although the author is from the mid-west, she has a degree in philosophy from Berkeley and was a professor at Sonoma State University where she taught feminist ethics and the philosophy of emotion. Her many Mexican students motivated her to delve into the history and art of that country and to experience the whole Mexican mystique. She was enchanted. As one would expect Romain's style of writing is elevated and peppered with foreign phrases. Some situations that are presented are perplexing however, they are usually resolved several chapters later or maybe they are not resolved at all. There is a dash of magical realism here and there, a style that can only be properly implemented on Latin American soil. Consider that plaster jaguar who seems to be not only omniscient but discriminating and checks out all the protagonist's deeds in this thoroughly engrossing novel.
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