Here's a description of the book from Howard Books:
"When a good church girl starts singing in a jazz club and falls for the music—as well as a handsome African American man—she struggles to reconcile her childhood faith with her newfound passions.
Raised in the Danish Baptist Church, Rose Sorensen knows it’s wrong to sing worldly songs. But Rose still yearns for those she hears on the radio—'Cheek to Cheek,' 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'—and sings them when no one is around.
One day, Rose’s cousin takes her to Calliope’s, a jazz club, where she discovers an exciting world she never knew existed. Here, blacks and whites mingle, brought together by their shared love of music. And though Rose worries it’s wrong—her parents already have a stable husband in mind for her—she can’t stop thinking about the African American pianist of the Chess Men, Theo Chastain. When Rose returns to the jazz club, she is offered the role of singer for the Chess Men. The job would provide money to care for her sister, Sophy, who has cerebral palsy—but at what cost?
As Rose gets to know Theo, their fledgling relationship faces prejudices she never imagined. And as she struggles to balance the dream world of Calliope’s with her cold, hard reality, she also wrestles with God’s call for her life. Can she be a jazz singer? Or will her faith suffer because of her worldly ways?
Set in Depression-era Chicago and rich in historical detail, Sing for Me is a beautiful, evocative story about finding real, unflinching love and embracing—at all costs—your calling."
This was one of those books where I wasn't sure how engaging it might be. The cover, the reference to "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," and the premise of the book all caught my attention, but I didn't know if the story would hold my attention. It looked like it could be a slower read. And yes, in some ways it was, as it's more literary in nature, very focused on descriptions of the characters, background, setting, and feelings. Even still, I wasn't able to give up on it. Sing for Me captured my imagination and wouldn't let go.
I started reading the book in an art museum while waiting for my sister's Irish dance performance to begin. My sister and I had just spent some time examining and critiquing the artwork (in a fun, non-professional way, of course!), and I had some drawings of different cities and cultures viewed from unique angles fresh on my mind. I think that "museum mood" stayed with me the whole time I read the book... The story felt unique, mysterious - something to be figured out and yet appreciated for its unflinching display of human error, emotion, and enchantment.
I confess the first-person present tense POV threw me off a bit at first, but I think it ultimately served its purpose of drawing me into the heroine's (Rose's) heart. The writing does get a little flowery in some regards, and the ending felt a little off from the rest of the story, in that it's a little abrupt and emotionally different than a lot of what leads up to it. (Plus, I would have loved a little more closure for some secondary characters' futures before "The End").
And yet the story is so intriguing. Rose's struggles are so very real. Even though life is very different for many of us today, her uncertainty over conflicting duties, her love and frustration for her handicapped sister, her warring desires - all these hit home for me. And Theo... Be still my heart. His character is so wise and kind and wonderful, despite - and perhaps in part because of - his fight for freedom in his circumstances and his heart. His family is also very endearing.
Sing for Me isn't a fast read, but it is a thought-provoking and gut-wrenching one in the issues it raises: questions of hope, submission, and God's calling. The characters are studies in the range of the "religious," prodding the reader to ponder what God would really have us do with difficult choices and unexpected revelations. A really poignant story from beginning to end.
*With thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*
Note: Sing for Me releases April 1, 2014.