Atlanta couple Ben and Nina were supposed to move in together and start their happy ever after, but when Nina tells Ben her dog, Sid, can talk, Ben can’t believe her and their romance unravels. Alternating between Ben and Nina’s POVs, Songs by Honeybird follows the once-happy couple as they cope with the end of their relationship: Ben dives headfirst into research for his dissertation on the history — and mystery — of Honeybird, the South’s first integrated rock band, and Nina tries to reckon with her talking dog, as he puts into question the events surrounding her father’s death. Will the buried secrets of the past bring Ben and Nina back together — or will the secrets they uncover forge for them entirely new paths? Accompanied by a soundtrack of original songs, Songs by Honeybird is a novel about what can begin after a relationship ends.
This new novel by Peter McDade is scheduled for release on March 29th, 2022. His publisher Wampus gave me the opportunity to get an early look for an honest review.
I first read about this upcoming book in an independent publishing catalog I get at work at the library. The brief synopsis really intrigued me, especially with the angle of the late 1960's southern music scene. I had to seek it out just on those elements. As noted above, the story follows a couple who have just broken up with the book laid out in alternating chapters between each as they move on with their lives and interests. No surprise, Ben's story and his research into the band Honeybird really resonated with me more. In fact, I would have been perfectly content with a novel that focused just on Ben's dive into the fictional band's history - perhaps balancing the present-day investigation with flashbacks to the characters in the 1960's (as opposed to hearing it second hand from Darlene and Toni). This approach could have allowed us to better get into the heads all three band members and the racially tense world wherein they lived.
Nina's story is a bit odder to me, especially with the whole "talking dog" aspect. Still, her story is about how someone moves on to a new relationship. It felt very genuine and honest to me. The author has a good ear for dialogue; all of his characters come across as natural and not forced.
Music plays an important part in both halves of the novel. McDade peppers a lot of references throughout his story, to songs and bands I am very familiar. Those kinds of topical references really resonate with me and often similarly find their way into my own writing as well. I like when an author forges that kind of connection with his readers. I also like the fact that the author is also himself a musician. As such, he has made a number of the songs from the book available on his YouTube channel. You can check those out by clicking this link.