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Review: Broad Street, by Christine Weiser

My days of sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll may be a long time behind me. However, I am not alone in my admiration of people who pursue their dream and their passion. Christine Weiser is such a person. The author of Broad Street, a story of a young twentysomething who finds a passion in music and taps into a talent that she did not know she had, Weiser brings the reader into the life of young musicians, musician wannabes, and hangers-on in a way that puts the reader on the stage, in the studio, and between the sheets.
The narrator, Kit, starts the story as the humiliated ex-girlfriend of a struggling musician. She has a bass guitar in her sparse collection of stuff that survives the breakup. The bass guitar begins as an afterthought – something not returned to a cheater who deserves it back – over his head. She starts out as a Horatio Alger hero for the modern age – a girl in a modern-day sweatshop, proofreading texts for medical authors, under the hawk-eye of a boss who makes her tremble. The musical life, that she has found through her boyfriend, serves as her escape. Her self-loathing is amplified by the presence of her sister, Nikki, who is beautiful, smart, witty, and in love with a married man.
Margo enters Kit’s life through a band party in which they click over the small talk of the trade. What unites them is more the revenge fantasy of forming a band and surpassing their cheating boyfriends than their passion for musical expression. While hatching the plan for the band, from which Broad Street gets its name, the young women find that they really do have passion, and they can write sweet songs, angry songs, and passionate songs in addition to revenge songs. More importantly to them, they become best friends. Diligently, they work to master their instruments, find a permanent drummer, and become the best girl band in Philadelphia. Throughout the birth and launch of the band, we find the young women, especially Kit, drunk, hung over, and naked next to a man they didn’t know or who exploited them. Screwing and getting screwed. A continuous metaphor for the music business from women who were still at its periphery.
Kit’s great triumph comes near the end of the book, when she reconciles with the father from whom she badly longed to win respect. Because she needed some money to produce a professional demo, she has to make nice with Papa – where she is redeemed when he tells her that she doesn’t need to make it big to win his love.
Does the band hit it big? Do they get that breakthrough recording contract? Those are not the key questions asked by Broad Street. Rather, the book asks the question, “What does a young person need in order to emerge as a fully fledged adult in the postmodern world?” No one who reads this book can look back at her own postcollegiate years the same way.
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