This NL Reads novel tells a different tale of leaving home
Jamie Fitzpatrick's The End of Music is one of this year's NL Reads contenders
Don't let the title of Jamie Fitzpatrick's latest book fool you.
The End of Music positively throbs with songs, sweaty dance floors and sentences that verge on the lyrical.
"Music is the bed that the book lies in," said the St. John's-based writer of his book, which now basks in the literary spotlight as one of the four NL Reads finalists.
The competition, organized by the province's provincial libraries, asks people to read four new Newfoundland and Labrador novels and vote for their favourite in the lead up to a gala event in February in St. John's, where one book will be crowned the winner.
The End of Music is the second novel from the Gander-born writer and broadcaster — yes, he's that same Jamie Fitzpatrick who pops up on CBC Radio — a time-traveling story split between the aviation heyday of Gander and the present, the island and the mainland, a mother and son.
Teenage tunes, teenage town
"I started out with two ideas, for two separate books, and I couldn't figure out which one to pursue," admitted Fitzpatrick of the complex plots and themes that weave through his novel seamlessly, thanks to tight writing and sparkling details.
As Fitzpatrick mulled over his fascination with 1950s Gander, and his love of pop music — "an obsession of mine since I was a teenager" — he realized the themes melded, married by the common thread of youth.
"When you think of pop music and the first time you hear it … it really hits home with you. Those are the days of your adolescence," he said.
"And in a funny way, if you look back at the early days of Gander, when the airport was new and the town was new and it was full of young people … that's kind of a Newfoundland adolescence. Those were people who were just ready to leave the past behind and push ahead."
Fitzpatrick had a head start on researching that heady time by growing up in Gander, but said he loved compiling extra research, which included interviewing older generations about their first-hand accounts of the 1940s and '50s "frontier spirit of it all."
Equally fun, said Fitzpatrick, was delving into the songs of the era to flesh out his pages, including music from Ella Fitzgerald, Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra as he wrote.
Questioning the stereotype
The book flits in and out of the past through Joyce, a young woman arriving from an outport intent on moving up in life, full of promise — and yes, full of music.
It also follows her adult son, Carter, as he struggles with the fallout from his own youth, and his own move far away from home to Toronto.
The book opens with Carter returning to his childhood home where nostalgia takes a backseat to a weedy backyard and seeing people his age he no longer recognizes.
Fitzpatrick said he wanted to bring nuance to a common story told about people from this province.
"The kind of Newfoundland stereotype is that we all hate leaving home, and we all want to get back home if only we could," he said.
"That's true of lots of people, that's not a false narrative, but there's lots of Newfoundlanders who leave home and never look back. Those are stories we don't hear about much."
'A huge compliment'
Since The End of Music was published in 2017, Fitzpatrick said the warm response from readers — especially those at the renowned Writers At Woody Point festival — has been an honour, but little of it tops being selected for NL Reads.
"I take that as a huge compliment. If a librarian holds up your book and says, 'I think this is a good read,' then that is a five-star review that you should treasure," he said.
For all of December, The End of Music is available as a free, unlimited download through the provincial library. Voting also takes place online.
The NL Reads gala takes place Feb. 28 at the A.C. Hunter Library in St. John's.