Sunday, February 17, 2008

Listen to a Symphony of Secrets

Symphony of Secrets by Sharon Hinck
There are three consuming passions in Amy Johnson’s life: motherhood, music, and mystery. So consuming that she won’t let herself think about anything else, including romance. It seems that the one great romance of her life, with her daughter’s father back in her Julliard days, left her seriously wounded. Since that time when she had to forgo a possibly great musical career in order to be a single parent, Amy has channeled that irritating total focus of musicians to raising her daughter, Clara, and making a living as a music teacher.

As they novel begins, Clara has grown to be a sophomore in high school, and Amy panics at the signs of Clara’s growing independence. It has always been “you and me against the world,” but Clara is finding more and more connection to the rest of the world, leaving poor mom behind. And, gasp! That includes cheerleading! How could this musically talented child find any interest in such a thing? Amy is flabbergasted, but does her best to be supportive and feign an interest for Clara’s sake. Meanwhile, an unexpected opportunity arises for Amy, a chance to audition for the symphony orchestra. She can’t imagine that her luck could change, but it does. She actually gets the spot. Soon after she begins rehearsals, however, little snippets of conversations and odd events ignite the sleuth in her, to a point that her investigating might cost her this job. Is there really something sinister going on or a series of coincidences? And why is there such enmity between the conductor and the concertmaster?

In another thread, her good friend from Julliard days and duet buddy, Lena, is changing, much to Amy’s alarm. It seems Lena has found religion, and she is asking Amy to come to church with her. Worse yet, for Amy, who has no use for God, Clara keeps going back after the first visit. It is all just too much change for Amy. Her secure little, isolated world is coming apart. Now she has to deal with cheerleaders’ moms, Clara going on dates, God, flirts at the orchestra, a mysterious set of events at the performances, and the specter of her past.

This is basically a story about relationships. While there is some romance, it is secondary to the mother-daughter relationship, the gods/God relationships, and relationships in general. There is a mystery to be solved, but it is actually in the background. Sprinkled throughout are some suspenseful moments, quite a few uncomfortable and thought-provoking occasions, and many funny ones. The path leading to God isn’t forced or preachy, but it comes about as a part of a life-witness. The love of literature has a part in this path as Amy has established a tradition of bedtime reading with Clara. They take turns choosing the books After Clara started attending the youth group meetings, she brought home C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. In spite of herself, Amy found passages digging deep into her soul, excellent passages that are quoted for the readers. I love this device, even if it is quite overt.

Another device I like is the method of chapter headings that keep the musical theme. Each chapter begins with a musical term--like glissando, fugue, impetuoso—followed by a definition that will pertain to the events of that chapter. Musical allusions are rampant, with similes and vocabulary galore, enough that I think it would help for the reader to be familiar with such terminology in order to get the full benefit of the novel. However, There is more than enough to enjoy without such knowledge.

At times the pace is a bit slow, but that is probably in keeping with the need to develop the characters and the past. It is all from Amy’s point of view, told in first person, giving us open access to her thoughts as well as the action and actual spoken word. There is no real violence, no mature themes, so while I would classify it as a book for adult women first and foremost, it should be quite handily read by most teenagers. Above all, it will be appreciated by the musically inclined.

Symphony of Secrets by Sharon Hinck
Bethany House Publishers,
Feb. 2008
ISBN @ 978-0-7642-0282-7
Paperback. 212 pages.
Sharon's website,
Book available from many Christian bookstores, most bookstores, and online at and

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