Book Review: Jane’s Melody By Ryan Winfield


In many ways, Ryan Winfield’s Jane’s Melody is an usual novel in amongst the ‘palate cleanser’s’ featured on this blog. The first clue would be in the writer’s name – no, the book is not written by someone with a cool should-be-a-dude’s-name-but-is-actually-a-chick. He’s a full on, honest to goodness (I believe!) guy, and I was thrilled to find a male writer tackling a romantic story in this manner. Secondly, though, this novel is not what might be considered a traditional New Adult story – although some of the tropes are present (hot, charming young man in his twenties, strong romance, wondering what to do with one’s life) – our central heroine is a woman just turned forty years old. And lastly, rather than going for the first-person narrative often favoured by NA writers, Winfield has chosen a considered, often quite lyrical third-person narrative style. The initial beat of Jane’s Melody is borne out of grief, and this is a seam that runs through the novel in a haunting and emotive fashion. Melody is Jane’s daughter, who has just lost her struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. When Jane encounters a mysterious stranger at her daughter’s graveside, she begins a journey towards healing, heartbreak, and love that has many moments of genuine emotional power. As Jane’s relationship with the unknown twenty-something Caleb unfolds, Winfield manages to avoid the clichés of a cougar and her prey, instead creating realistic insecurities in their relationship that their age-gap would bring about, in a (mostly) subtle manner. The small-island, Washington setting is vividly rendered, as are Caleb’s musical abilities and ambitions, both belying the focus and attention that Winfield dedicated to his story as detailed in his lovely author’s note at the book’s conclusion. The journey of Jane and Caleb tentatively coming together as he begins his work as a live-in gardener, to their burgeoning relationship, to their fateful parting and eventual reconciliation is gently compelling. While the two of them didn’t make me want to scream or sob, there was a sweetness to the depiction of their romance, and I loved the scene when they part and it was Caleb who openly cried. Perhaps due to the subduing nature of the grief Jane is going through – and encounters again later in the story in another important relationship in her life – Jane’s Melody was not, for me, a novel that grabbed the guts and yanked, making you swing dramatically from pillar to post. It was more a meditative story about grief and love that gently plucked the heart strings.

Amazon Link:

Cringe Factor                                   1/5

Is it Hot in Here?                             2/5

For the Love of Feminism!            4/5

Overall Tasty Goodness                3.5/5

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