The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Daisy Jones and the Six (read my review here), so when another book came out in the form of an oral history of a 1970’s singing duo, I was immediately curious. The Final Revival of Opal and Nev was just as good, if not better than Daisy Jones. Do not shy away from this book if you loved Daisy, because although the style is the same, the stories are completely different.

From the publisher: “Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.”

I highly recommend picking up the audio for The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, because the full cast is excellent. Since the book is written like an oral history, this makes the book work very effectively as an audio selection. I actually listened to this book twice over the course of a couple of months because it was that enjoyable.

I want to meet Opal, I really do. Her character was so well-drawn out you could picture her in her wigs and colorful outfits. Her take-no-prisoners attitude really came through in the writing. Opal is fierce; you don’t want to mess with her. Unfortunately, Nev was not nearly as fully fleshed out as Opal. He’s just another British singer riding on the coattails of the British Invasion of the mid to late 1960’s. One of the other reasons I listened to the book again was because I thought I missed some important character development. Nev’s just not as interesting as Opal.

Behind the backdrop of the 1970’s music scene is the case of race relations during that time and in 2016. In some ways, Opal is ahead of her time, in some ways she is of her time. Nev doesn’t seem to see the issues the same way as Opal, and that’s when there’s friction. Nev clearly has a crush on Opal, but Opal is involved with the married drummer of their recording sessions.

The event that propels Opal and Nev to fame, the Rivington Showcase, reminds one of Altamont mixed in with a race riot. When Opal takes care of the Confederate flag that another group from the label was going to display on the stage, it reminds one of today’s headlines. And then when we find out that Nev was willing to throw Opal under the bus, so to speak, for his chance at fame, well, that makes the story of race relations is brought to a whole different level. The tragedy that ensues is a direct result of Nev’s white privilege. And the subsequent revealing of this information leads to the unraveling of a 2016 reunion.

This is a stunning debut from an author I will want to read again. I highly recommend this book.

This is the 42nd Audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.

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