Monday, February 13, 2023

Book Review: A Broken People's Playlist

A Broken People’s Playlist is the soundtrack of life, comprised of twelve music-inspired tales about love, the human condition, micro-moments, and the search for meaning and sometimes, redemption. It is also Chimeka Garricks’s love letter to his native city, Port Harcourt, the setting of most of the stories.

In these loosely interlocked tales, Garricks introduces a cast of indelible characters. There is a teenage wannabe-DJ eager to play his first gig even as his family disastrously falls apart—who reappears many years later as an unhappy middle-aged man drunk-calling his ex-wife; a man who throws a living funeral for his dying brother; three friends who ponder penis captivus and one’s peculiar erectile dysfunction; a troubled woman who tries to find her peace-place in the world, helped by a headful of songs and a pot of ginger tea.

This collection of short stories by Chimeka Garricks will be published on March 21, 2023. Harper Collins provided an early galley for review.

Short story collections can often be a mixed bag for me as a reader. If they are all of the same genre or involve the same characters, they can sometimes lose their unique identities if they are read together in a short period of time. Where these kinds of collections work for me is when they each have something distinguishing about them and each have something to say. This collection falls into that latter category as it is about different characters who happen to live in the same location. This is, however, one of the first short story collections I have read by a single author. When that happens, the stories are coming from the same place so it can be harder to make each one pop in a different way.

As someone who has loved listening to music his entire life, I like that songs inspired the author to write the stories. The musical mentions always connect with me too. Some are subtle, mere backing soundtracks if you will. From the choices, the author and I have several touchstones where we overlap. Music brings people together just as universal story themes do.

I had two minor quibbles. Some of the Nigerian phrases and slang were lost on me. Perhaps it is just some things that get lost in the translation. They are not critical to understanding the tales or relating to the characters. But, as a reader, the unfamiliar terms throw me a bit off of my rhythm as I am going through a story. The other thing was some of the stories had the narration with "you" - which implies to me that the reader is one of the characters (which we are clearly not). Again, this just falls into reading preferences of my own, so individual mileage will vary.

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