Piano (Hostile Takeover, 2016) tells the story of two families dealing with the fallout of a tragic death in this novel.
The sudden death of Stu Hammand in a car accident at age 18 has a tremendous impact on the lives of those around him. UCLA freshman Sunny Riddick is heartbroken, and she does little other than sit in her room mourning the loss of the boy she hoped to marry. Meanwhile, Stu’s parents’ marriage falls apart, adding to his father Ted’s near-unbearable heartache: “Ted had read that about 20 percent of parents who lose a child get divorced….It made him sad to think he was on the wrong side of that statistic.” The Hammands aren’t the only ones on the rocks: Sunny’s parents, Durk and Aleen Riddick, have also separated, creating greater distance between Sunny and Aleen even as they both mourn Stu’s loss. Amid all this upheaval, a new family of sorts forms, as Aleen, Sunny, and Ted begin meeting every Sunday to watch Stu’s favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers, play on television. What begins as a way to honor Stu soon turns into a method for them all to move past loss. The more time that they spend together, the more that they realize that the dissolutions of both marriages are more complicated than they thought—and that the two couples have more in common than the relationship between their children. Piano writes in conversational prose that makes no effort to blunt or hide the emotions of her characters: “Sunny’s words from that night were seared into her brain. ‘You killed him. You two killed Stu.’ ” The story is well-paced, and Piano handles the shifting perspectives of the three main characters in a way that slowly and satisfyingly spools out each complicating detail. Sometimes the dramatic situations strain credulity—the work is pure melodrama at its heart—but the author manages to keep the reader invested with sheer curiosity about what happens next. Fans of stories of good, earnest people entangled in messy relationships will find plenty here to enjoy.
A charming work about two damaged, intertwined families.