In the early 2000s, Jessica Hindman was a college student struggling to pay for tuition at Columbia. Her parents, back in Appalachia, had never even heard of Columbia and didn’t understand her passion to attend despite the ridiculous cost. Then, she gets the opportunity of her dreams: she’s hired as a professional violinist as part of the ensemble for The Composer playing for audiences across the country. The music is new-age cheese and not too demanding, and despite her self-professed mediocre skills (I believe she must have more talent than she admits), she perseveres. Of course she can ─ the mics are never turned on. Through countless PBS specials and performances, the Composer plays a pre-recorded professional CD through speakers instead of allowing the live musicians to be heard. The audience has no idea.
Although a cursory Internet search will give names to the thinly-veiled characters, she refers to her boss only as The Composer. He’s presented ambivalently. He sincerely cares about his fans and is sympathetic to their problems, but he’s also a bit manic and possibly skirts the border of fraud with the fake performances.
I loved this memoir. It’s chock full of relatable experiences to anyone who’s ever suffered from self-doubt, misplaced ambition, or imposter syndrome. Jessica’s story is as genuine as it is unusual, and her succinct telling in the second person drew me in. Jessica reassures you that it’s okay to not be okay.
This is the story of a college girl adrift. Jessica captures the struggle between dreams and harsh reality, and the suffering endured by all aspiring 20-somethings of the dichotomy of bursting enthusiasm and zero experience.
The audiobook was well done, read by Elizabeth Wiley, whose drawl was a bit syrupy at times. I kept picturing Julia Sugarbaker from “Designing Women” instead of a young college student. Her narration, however, was engaging, and she voiced the numerous characters with skill.
Many thanks to LibraryThing, HighBridge audio, and W. W. Norton and Company for this audiobook in exchange for my review.