Author(s): Richard Powers
In 1939 at Marion Anderson's great protest concert in Washington, a German-Jewish -migr- physicist and a young black contralto are brought together by concern over a lost child. They eventually marry and have three children, bringing them up in a hot-house atmosphere of music and maths, hoping to raise them to have no awareness of race as an issue in their lives. All three are musically talented, but they cannot be protected from the world for long. Jonah becomes a successful young tenor, but the world of opera can only accept him as a 'brilliant Negro singer'; Joseph, our narrator, becomes a pianist and devotes his talents to the service of his brother's; Ruth turns her back on classical music ('white music') and disappears, on the run with her black husband under suspicion of being a Black Panther. Powers brilliantly and devastatingly delineates the tragedy of race in America, as it unfolds from the Civil Rights movement to Rodney King and Louis Farrakhan, through the lives and choices of one family, caught on the cusp of identities. This is a hugely ambitious - and brilliantly achieved - novel, as brilliantly clever as Powers' previous novels, but also deeply political and deeply moving.