“Perfect Tunes is an intoxicating blend of music, love, and family from one of the essential writers of the internet generation.” —STEPHANIE DANLER
“Perfect Tunes is a zippy and profound story of love, loss, heredity, and parenthood. I gulped it down, as will all mothers, New Yorkers, music fans, and lovers of quick-moving novels that are both funny and deep. I loved every page.” —EMMA STRAUB
“Perfect Tunes is mind-blowing….Full of unspeakable insights, or at least I thought they were unspeakable, but there they are. Now I want everyone I know to read this book and talk about it with me.” —ELIF BATUMAN
Have you ever wondered what your mother was like before she became your mother, and what she gave up in order to have you?
It’s the early days of the new millennium, and Laura has arrived in New York City’s East Village in the hopes of recording her first album. A songwriter with a one-of-a-kind talent, she’s just beginning to book gigs with her beautiful best friend when she falls hard for a troubled but magnetic musician whose star is on the rise. Their time together is stormy and short-lived—but will reverberate for the rest of Laura’s life.
Fifteen years later, Laura’s teenage daughter, Marie, is asking questions about her father, questions that Laura does not want to answer. Laura has built a stable life in Brooklyn that bears little resemblance to the one she envisioned when she left Ohio all those years ago, and she’s taken pains to close the door on what was and what might have been. But neither her best friend, now a famous musician who relies on Laura’s songwriting skills, nor her depressed and searching daughter will let her give up on her dreams.
Funny, wise, and tenderhearted, Perfect Tunes explores the fault lines in our most important relationships, and asks whether dreams deferred can ever be reclaimed. It is a delightful and poignant tale of music and motherhood, ambition and compromise—of life, in all its dissonance and harmony.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Emily Gould’s novel is a near-flawless coming-of-age story and a passionate love letter to a swiftly changing New York City circa 2001. It follows Laura, a college dropout with serious musical talent and a thing for moody, almost-famous guitarists. Her thrilling, circuitous, 20-year journey toward happiness is studded with surprises and heartbreak, and Gould’s talent for sharp, pitch-perfect dialogue allows her to capture the elemental, fraught love between mothers and daughters. Exhilarating and frank, Perfect Tunes shines a bright light on the realities of an artist’s life, the dueling forces of depression and inspiration, and the true cost of the dreams we leave behind. It’s the perfect read for anyone yearning for a bit of bittersweet nostalgia.
Gould's sharply observant novel (after Friendship) follows an aspiring singer-songwriter on the fringes of New York City's rock music scene. In the early 2000s, 22-year-old Laura moves from Columbus, Ohio, into her high school friend Callie's East Village apartment, too late to catch the neighborhood's "mythic version of itself that existed in her mind." While working as a greeter at a slick lounge, she dreams of a music career and begins dating and doing drugs with Dylan, singer and guitarist for an up-and-coming band. After Dylan dies in a drug-related accidental drowning, Callie and Laura are invited to replace Dylan in the band, but Laura, pregnant with Dylan's child, opts not to. Callie joins, and later, single mom Laura moves to Brooklyn, teaches music classes, and settles down with a divorced father. By 2016, Laura's baby has grown into a rebellious teenager and Laura continues to waver between making ends meet and pursuing her dream. While Gould falters when depicting emotional connections, she offers vivid glimpses of N.Y.C.'s recent past and impresses with striking language: a hangover makes Laura's head "feel like a black banana," and her baby is a "bomb" that requires "steady-handed defusing." Gould's portrait of a would-be artist as a young woman offers fresh, poignant insights into the challenges faced by the city's transplanted dreamers.