On Dec. 27, 1989, 22-year-old Michael Sullivan, an aspiring rock star, pulls an invitation out of the mailbox of the dumpy trailer he shares with his uncle Mike Sullivan. He lives just across the street from the mansion owned by the Wheeler family, once famous musicians whose muted legacy remains. Though the invitation to the Wheelers’ New Year’s Eve party is clearly not for him, Michael instantly recognizes the unexpected opportunity that has come his way because Uncle Mike will be out of town that night, so he will attend in his place.
Since Michael was kicked out of his rock band and the apartment he shared with band members and was told not to come back till he had something to offer of value, he has been floundering, nursing “the giant chip on his shoulder,” and longing to meet Dusty and Deb Wheeler, hoping they can give him a hand up in the music industry so he can prove his band members wrong.
When Michael attends the party and meets Dusty, Deb, and their daughter Natalie, he is confronted with far more than the glamourous world of his imaginings, and slowly and inexorably comes face-to-face with the demons that haunt him. Though Dusty tells Michael that the obstacles people confront can be helpful to their maturation, Michael can’t see how his stumbling blocks—his father’s lifelong absence, his mother’s promiscuous lifestyle, his own sense of “aggressive mediocrity” and the feeling that everyone is waiting for him to fail—can be helpful.
When Michael first meets the Wheelers, he “is half-starved for even the slightest bit of encouragement. Where other people might have ambition or courage or tenacity welling up inside of them, all I had was a deep dark pit that got a golden coin of support dropped in every once in a while but otherwise remained empty, hungry.” However, as Michael and Natalie’s friendship grows as they write and produce music, Michael learns that people act the way they do for reasons often unknown to onlookers. He also realizes that he no longer wants to live in the past when his future holds surprising promise, though not in the sense that he had always hoped for: “I had originally come to the Wheeler house because I thought knowing Dusty would get me back into my old band. Now I could see that some other plan had been put into motion long before I accepted an invitation that was not addressed to me.”
With a soft, convincing touch, author Erin Bartels weaves biblical truths of forgiveness, healing, and God’s sovereignty into this moving novel for adults, which celebrates new beginnings, a budding romance, and the incredible God-given gift of music. (Revell)