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June 9, 2011

Book Notes - Laura Dave ("The First Husband")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Laura Dave's third novel The First Husband is an absorbing tale of self-discovery.

Jonathan Tropper wrote of the book:

"Positively shines with wisdom and intelligence. What truly sets Dave apart is her ability to convey the contradictions and imperfections, the inherent impossibility of true love, and yet somehow still make you believe in it."

In her own words, here is Laura Dave's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, The First Husband:

My new novel, The First Husband, orbits around issues of heartbreak, loneliness, and marriage. Annie Adams' life has taken a wrong turn. At thirty-two years old, she's a successful travel writer and comfortably living with her longtime boyfriend, Nick, in southern California. Until, out of nowhere, Nick comes home and announces he's leaving. In reaction, Annie meets and marries Griffin, a quirky chef who she barely knows. Three months later, she finds herself living in a desolate, tiny town in Western Massachusetts, feeling like she's married a stranger—and irreversibly screwed up her life. As Annie wrestles with her breaking marriage and questionable choices, she somehow stumbles upon the place where she finally feels like she belongs—and struggles to figure out how to stay there.

Music plays an important role for me when I'm writing a book—and The First Husband has been no exception. Many of the songs on this playlist joined me in the kitchen at 3 AM while I cooked Griffin's specialties. Yes, I've cooked everything he makes in the book, including his eggs and lobster. Though, at 3 AM, I used half and half in the recipe as opposed to Griffin's gruyere. I recommend that substitution. The songs I recommend just as they are.

"I and Love and You" —The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers write about the devastation of old love and lost dreams in increasingly surprising and innovative ways. Their awesomeness is on display in this heartbreaker about what we may never get back. I picture Annie listening to this at the beginning of The First Husband as she's wondering how a freight train ran over her and she didn't even see it coming.

"Bixby Canyon Bridge"—Death Cab for Cutie

I love this song, which makes me think of Big Sur, California and open highways and renewal. Lyrically, it certainly isn't an upbeat song: "No closer to any kind of truth/As I assume was the case with you." And, yet, it cheers me. Maybe it has to do with the grilled peaches and ricotta cheese I made while it was playing on repeat and which I almost certainly think of now every time I hear it.

"Hang With Me (acoustic)"—Robyn

I only discovered Robyn about a year ago, but fell fast for her soft voice and catchy tempo, obfuscating the loneliness and longing of which she sings. Robyn is almost whispering in the acoustic version of Hang With Me—in a way that keeps me turning up the volume, leaning in close, helping her along.

"Remember The Mountain Bed"—Wilco

During a pivotal moment in The First Husband, Annie returns home from a work trip to Ischia, Italy—only to find out that Nick has reached out to her. Before she can figure out what that actually means, Griffin offers her two tickets to see Wilco, specifically to hear "Remember The Mountain Bed" and: "my loneliness healed, my emptiness filled, I walk above all pain." I love Wilco for helping Annie—at that moment, at least—choose wisely.

"On The Radio"—Regina Spektor

This song feels almost novelistic to me. Spektor is telling us a story—sometimes even more so than singing us one. I love how she begins each verse by telling us—without apology—"This is how it works." It reminds me of Jordan, Annie's best friend, who can't stop trying to right Annie's imagined wrongs.

"Cry On Demand"—Ryan Adams

This isn't my favorite Ryan Adams song and yet it is the one that swam to the surface for me over the last year. There is something about the guitar that sounds like actual crying in a way I find both haunting and endearing. Also, when I lived in Western Massachusetts, Ryan Adams accompanied me on my cold drive home each night. I picture Annie hearing this song on her own ride home, not wanting to get out of the car, avoiding the cold that's coming.

"Shooting Star"—Bob Dylan

I love this song. It is synonymous for me with feeling too much—which is why I don't listen to it in public anymore. Over the course of The First Husband, Annie becomes close to Griffin's wildly messed-up brother, Jesse, who moves in with them after his wife kicks him out. When Annie and Jesse have their heart-to-heart over too much bourbon, I imagine "Shooting Star" playing in the background.

"A Case Of You"—Joni Mitchell

Fifteen years ago, I heard this song for the first time on Mitchell's album, Misses. As opposed to her album, Hits—which I think she put out on the same day. Misses did it for me and "A Case Of You" became a staple of my musical life. This song is perfect for the kind of self-pitying sadness that radiates out of Griffin and Annie's household when everything falls apart. The type of honest sadness that it's hard to see—if you could manage to turn it just slightly—can start to look more than a little like joy.

"Devil Knows You're Dead"—Delta Spirit

This song makes me ridiculously happy, and yet I tear up almost every time I hear it. It opened up the world of Delta Spirit for me. You get the feeling listening to them that they can't believe you're listening to them so they're going to tell you everything they know. I'm in. For all of it. And for the happy ending they seem to accidentally promise.

"Back In Your Arms"—Bruce Springsteen

I adore this lesser-known Springsteen tune and the simplicity the song aches with. The song revolves around love and longing and what goes away from us when we're not looking. But Springsteen also says something quietly about faith and love here, which, during the journey of The First Husband, Annie finally takes to heart. I like to imagine this song on in the background, right when she figures out where she needs to go.

Laura Dave and The First Husband links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

The Book Chick review
Booking Mama review
The Divining Wand review
Hollywood The Write way review
Kirkus Reviews review
Linus's Blanket review
Publishers Weekly review
S. Krishna's Books review
That's What She Read review
USA Today review

The Cavalier Daily profile of the author
Cindy Reads interview with the author
The Divining Wand guest post by the author
The Divining Wand interview with the author
Huffington Post contributions by the author
One True Thing interview with the author
Style Substance Soul interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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