Wednesday, December 25, 2019

My First Renee Rosen...But Definitely Not My Last!

Melissa strikes again.  She strongly urged me to read Windy City Blues, by Renee Rosen.  And I liked it so much that I immediately bought Park Avenue Summer.  It's sitting in my (increasingly growing) TBR pile.  But back to WCB.  This is historical fiction at its finest.  Renee gives us a story that I knew nothing about (big surprise, eh?).  It's about the record industry in Chicago in the mid-1900s.  Here is the blurb:

In the middle of the twentieth century, the music of the Mississippi delta arrived in Chicago, drawing the attention of entrepreneurs like the Chess brothers.  Their label, Chess Records, helped shape that music into the Chicago blues, the sound track for a transformative era in American history.  
But for Leeba Groski, Chess Records was just where she worked...
Leeba doesn't exactly fit in, but her passion for music is not lost on her neighbor Leonard Chess, who offers her a job at his new record company.  What begins as answering phones and filing becomes much more as Leeba comes into her own as a songwriter and befriends performers like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry and Etta James.  But she also falls in love with a black blues guitarist named Red Dupree.
With their relationship unwelcome in segregated Chicago and the two of them shunned by Leeba's Orthodox Jewish family, Lee and Red soon find themselves in the middle of the civil rights movement, and they discover that in times of struggle, music can bring people together.
Sound good?  It is.  Here is what we learn from this book:
1.  How the blues came to be on a national scale
2.  How record companies recorded, distributed, and sold records (still the same today?)
3.  Details of the Civil Rights movement
4.  Details of the Orthodox Jewish religion
5.  The obstacles that a white woman and black man faced as a couple

Besides this being such a good historical fiction novel, it was also just a good novel.  I teared up multiple times (are you stunned?), dropped a jaw once or twice, and even issued a big verbal "Phew," accompanied by tears of relief.  Need I say more?  This is the first book I am (almost) insisting you read since I listened to The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. Now that's saying a lot!


  1. So glad you loved it! Great review.

  2. I haven't read this book but you've sure made it sound good. Merry Christmas!