Review: Lay Down Your Weary Tune

Lay Down Your Weary Tune

by W. B. Belcher   

Reviewed by Judith Reveal | Released: January 26, 2016

Publisher: Other Press (384 pages)

W. B. Belcher’s first novel, Lay Down Your Weary Tune is the kind of book you start reading and don’t put down until you reach the last page. His writing style rings clear– it is lyrical, but at the same time confrontational.

His main character, John ’Jack’ Wyeth is a jack-of-all-trades on anything that relates to music. A would-be musician and a freelance writer, he is hired to write the life story of Eli Page – a 60s/70s/80s musician in the style of Bob Dylan, who has wandered into the final season of life unclear of his direction. Eli has been Jack’s hero since his childhood, and this offer is one he cannot turn down.

As with most best laid plans, this one goes awry immediately when Jack takes up residence at Eli’s home in the small upstate New York town of Galesville, where newcomers are not welcomed into the fold. It is here that he realizes Eli’s mind can move between coherent and irrational with the speed of light.

Eli is not cooperative about having his story told, and Jenny Lee Flynn – Jack’s new love interest – makes the task even more difficult, as she is protective of Eli and reluctant to provide any details about his life.

Jack does what Jack has to do to learn about this reclusive man, and is not beyond snooping into places where he does not belong. It does not take long before he discovers secrets that Eli has hidden for decades – secrets that involve Jenny, and to his dismay, secrets that involve Jack.

Life with Eli is difficult and challenging for Jack, and made no easier when a series of crimes occur within the town, and fingers begin to point at Eli, the outsider, as the perpetrator of these crimes.

Add to this the bumpy relationship with Jenny, who is often moody and pursued by Cal, a state trooper who has no use for either Eli or Jack, and the emotion and tension ramps up exponentially throughout each scene.

Belcher’s command of the language; his selection and use of words; his ability to paint clear pictures of the people and locations makes this story worth reading. But his ability to take his writing one step further and probe into the soul of his main character is the real attraction.

Written in the first person from Jack’s point of view, the reader crawls into the narrator’s soul and experiences life as Jack experiences it. As all main characters should, Jack grows throughout this story. He starts out as a man with little or no direction in his life, and grows as he encounters the precipitous ups and severe downs that make up his encounters with Eli, Jenny, and Cal.

Belcher brings the story to a clear and satisfying end, tying up all of the loose ends and answering the questions that he has posed throughout the story. 

This is definitely a page-turner and one that belongs on every reader’s library shelf. 

This book review was prepared for the New York Journal of Books and is reprinted with their permission. Please visit their website: www.nyjournalofbooks.com for a complete listing of book reviews.

Reviewer: Judy Reveal lives in Maryland. She is the author of Around Greensboro and the Lindsey Gale Mystery series including Cheating Death, The Music Room, A House to Kill For, and historical fiction (2013) The Brownstone.

© Roy Bartels 2012