This title and cover caught my eye while wandering the local bookstore. I gave it a glance over and added it to my Goodreads list to see if I could find it in the library or as an audiobook. Luckily, Libby had an audiobook copy, so I checked it out and gave it a listen. Narrated by Steven Hartley’s animated and UK accented voice, I found myself absorbed in the quirky characters that worked on Unity Street.
In 1988, Frank, owner of The Music Shop, only sells vinyl in a world that is technologically shifting towards CDs and cassette tapes. He loves all sorts of music, and believes nothing sounds as good as vinyl. Frank grew up only listening to classical music, favoring Chopin, due to his mother Peg’s influence until the fateful day that he ventured into a record store. There, he learned about the broad spectrum of music and the effects that it can have on a person. Soon, he was known for being a man who could find the perfect album or identify a song for any given customer- without them even asking. Unfortunately, Unity Street was in turmoil- shops were closing or being bought out by developers, and barely making ends meet. Frank, and a few fellow shopkeepers on the street, are determined to keep their doors open and support each other.
One fateful day, a woman is passing by The Music Shop in a green coat. Frank is watching her, caught up in her beauty, when suddenly she passes out. Acting quickly, Frank and his shop family jump to her rescue, calling an ambulance while Frank reassures her that he’s not going to leave her alone, that help is on the way. As he watches her leave in the ambulance, Frank wishes he could see her again under different circumstances. After a few days, the woman walks into the shop and introduces herself to Frank as Isle Brauchmann, and thanks him for coming to her rescue. Everyone in the shop, including Frank, is fascinated to have this woman reappear, but Frank knows that despite the sudden admiration for Ilse, there’s not a chance she’d ever fall for a guy like him. Then, when she mentions that she had a fiance, he throws up an emotional wall between them and urges her to leave.
Taken aback, Isle doesn’t understand why Frank is pushing her away, but she can’t seem to give up on him. She comes back to the shop, and demands music lessons from Frank. Guarded but still hopelessly falling for her, Frank takes on the assignment to help support his shop. Soon, Frank and Isle are having weekly lessons at the local cafe, discussing the wonder of music- the imagery, the emotion. Yet, in the back of Frank’s mind, his past prevents him from feeling worthy of Isle’s love.
Joyce gave me some serious Fredrik Backman vibes throughout her novel. Though the characters are quirky and the humor is well timed, there was still a deep undercurrent of emotion that stirred underneath and pulled me in. Frank’s backstory and relationship with Peg and Deb broke my heart, and all I could do was cheer on Ilse in the hopes that she could see through his tough exterior. I absolutely adored the ending, and I won’t spoil it for you but I kept giggling and smiling as the narrator gave the listeners the full experience. It was magical, in the most cheesy way. I also loved geeking out with Frank about his music, because I too enjoy many of the same bands and musicians. Through Joyce’s writing, the readers are easily able to join in on the conversations of music appreciation.
If you are looking for a short audiobook that still packs a punch, I highly suggest you check out The Music Shop– and when you’re done, tell me all about it!