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May 8, 2018

Joanna Cantor's Playlist for Her Novel "Alternative Remedies for Loss"

Alternative Remedies for Loss

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

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Joanna Cantor's funny and moving novel Alternative Remedies for Loss is an impressive debut.

Booklist wrote pf the book:

"A sharp and witty glimpse inside a functionally dysfunctional family, Cantor's first novel is heartbreakingly honest. Fans of Helen Fielding, Emma Straub, and Maggie Shipstead will appreciate Olivia's zest for life and capacity for personal growth. With a delightfully imperfect heroine, vibrant settings, and snappy dialogue, this is a whip-smart debut."


In her own words, here is Joanna Cantor's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Alternative Remedies for Loss:



Band of Horses, "The Funeral"

We meet Olivia Harris in a brief flash-forward: an autumn night in New York when she goes on an impromptu date with an older man. In the wake of her mother's death, Olivia is grief-stricken and in a pretty dark place. She's feeling isolated from her family, angry, reckless—and capable of doing just about anything.

Radiohead, "Fake Plastic Trees"

The Harrises travel to India—a trip Olivia had planned to take with her mother. But when Olivia's father invites June, a woman he's begun dating, to join the family trip, things take a weird turn. Though Olivia's brothers aren't happy about June's presence, they're not as upset as Olivia, adding to her feeling of disconnection.

Cat Powers, "Manhattan"

It's September, and Olivia has moved to New York and landed a job at a film production company. She's mostly going on coffee runs and making cheese plates, but living and working in Manhattan—meeting new people and going out with old friends—is exciting and energizing.

Sublime, "Badfish"

Olivia falls into a casual relationship with Michel, an enigmatic older man she meets through work. Spending time with Michel is a balm and a distraction from grief, but it also threatens the precarious sense of stability she's found. It's that classic dilemma: she knows Michel is bad for her, but he's hard to quit.

Arcade Fire, "We Used to Wait"

In December, Olivia visits her family home on Long Island Sound to sort through her mother's things. She isn't sure what to make of the love letters she finds—she can't believe her mother would have had an affair, since her parents had always seemed happily married. The letters will continue to nag at her, ultimately setting her on a path of discovery.

Tori Amos, "Crucify"

Olivia's life in New York falls apart abruptly just after New Year's…and it's mostly her fault. She has to deal with the fallout and come up with a plan B. There may be notes of self pity and anger mixed in with the self-flagellation.

Santigold, "Chasing Shadows"

Olivia returns to India, this time in search of Franco, the man she believes wrote letters to her mother. She's also planning to complete her college thesis, a film portrait of her mother. Though the reasons for the trip are complicated, she can't help but look forward to new adventures, including studying yoga at an ashram her mother had wanted to visit.

Sharon Van Etten, "We Are Fine"

Olivia is blindsided by what she learns in India and struggling to hold it together. She tries to rely on the sense of calm she's learned from her yoga practice to see her through—as well as some of her old, reliable coping strategies.

Death Cab for Cutie, "Transatlanticism"

Olivia returns to New York in time for the one-year anniversary of her mother's death, with a secret she doesn't feel she can share with her family. She's not the only one with conflicted emotions: her brother Ty is having doubts about his upcoming wedding, and her father is questioning his relationship with June.

Hem, "You Can't Always Get What You Want," 2011 (cover)

Nothing is perfect, but Olivia and her family are muddling their way towards peace and acceptance—including, for Olivia, another fresh start.


Joanna Cantor and Alternative Remedies for Loss links:

the author's website

Publishers Weekly review

Literary Hub interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
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Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
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