The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon

Not too long ago I read Daisy Jones and the Six and the book just blew me away. (Click here for my review). So when I heard the buzz for The Songbook of Benny Lament (Amazon) as a book fans of Daisy Jones would like, I knew I’d be reading or listening to it. I decided to get the audiobook because it was on sale the first week of it’s release.

From the publisher: “New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing.

Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob – and Benny – would rather avoid.

It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist. Benny’s songs and Esther’s vocals are an explosive combination, a sound that fans can’t get enough of. But though America might love the music they make together, some people aren’t ready for Benny Lament and Esther Mine on – or off – the stage.”

The Songbook of Benny Lament has a 4.6 out of 5 rating on Goodreads, which is an incredible feat for a book with 1325 ratings. So why didn’t I love the book the way everyone else seems to? It’s not that the writing was bad, Amy Harmon can write very well. And the topic of interracial relationships interested me, as did the Motown music. But I think what held me back from really liking it was the Mafia element to the book. I just don’t care to read or see or hear stories about the mob. Saw the Godfather movies and Scarface just to see what the big deal was about them; have never had any desire to watch them again.

There seemed to be two different storylines going on, one of the civil rights rights movement and the other of being in a Mafia family, but neither idea was committed to fully so I wasn’t, either. I didn’t think Benny and Esther had a lot of chemistry, although it’s written to suggest otherwise. In fact, I didn’t find Esther all that likeable. I did, however, find a connection between Benny and the Mine brothers.

That’s not saying I didn’t enjoy the story. For the most part I did, but I just don’t see what all the hype is about. At times, the writing was a little repetitive, and despite the issues of interracial relationships and segregation and the mob, I found myself kind of bored at times. In fact, the beginning 1/3 of the book and the last 1/3 of the book seemed really slow to me. The middle 1/3 was great, though.

Whenever I listen to an audiobook and don’t like it, I wonder if it was because of outside factors. As I’ve mentioned before, I do most of my listening while at work, so maybe I was feeling under pressure that week, or distracted by my kids constantly texting me throughout the day when their father is at home, doing a whole lot of nothing now that he’s retired and is the point-man for all things school related. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for hard-hitting social issues when what I really needed was a mindless romantic comedy. I don’t know with The Songbook of Benny Lament. It’s a three out of five star book for me.

This is the 35th Audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.

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