The healing power of music is almost impossible to quantify in traditional medicine. It carries with it the soothing notes and passionate crescendos that broken pieces and lives need to find their way back to the light. For this month’s list, surrender to the stories that have been composed, orchestrated, and refined to bring drama, healing, and self-discovery.

Wild Women and the Blues (Kensington 2021)
by Denny S. Bryce  

1925: Chicago is the jazz capital of the world, and the Dreamland Café is the ritziest black-and-tan club in town. Honoree Dalcour is a sharecropper’s daughter, willing to work hard and dance every night on her way to the top. Dreamland offers a path to the good life, socializing with celebrities like Louis Armstrong and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.

2015: Film student Sawyer Hayes arrives at the bedside of 110-year-old Honoree Dalcour, still reeling from a devastating loss that has taken him right to the brink. Sawyer has rested all his hope on this frail but formidable woman, the only living link to the legendary Oscar Micheaux. Piece by piece, Honoree reveals her past and her secrets while Sawyer fights tooth and nail to keep his. It’s a story of courage and ambition, hot jazz and illicit passions. And as past meets present, for Honoree, it’s a final chance to be truly heard and seen before it’s too late.

A Song for the Road (Alcove Press 2021)
by Kathleen Basi 

One year after the death of her husband and twin teenagers, Miriam Tedesco has lost faith in humanity and herself. When a bouquet of flowers that her husband always sends on their anniversary shows up at her workplace, she completely unravels. With the help of her best friend, she realizes that it’s time to pick up the pieces and begin to move on. 

When Miriam opens her daughter’s computer, she stumbles across a detailed cross-country road trip originally planned by the twins for the soon-to-be empty nesters at the time. After watching the embedded video clips, Miriam is determined to take this trip in memory of her children. Armed with her husband’s guitar, her daughter’s cello and her son’s unfinished piano sonata, she embarks on a musical pilgrimage to grieve the family she fears she never loved enough. Along the way, she meets a young, pregnant hitchhiker named Dicey, whose boisterous and spunky attitude reminds Miriam of her own daughter. As she struggles to keep her focus on the reason she set out on this journey, she must confront the possibility that the best way to honor her family may be to accept the truths she has been avoiding all along.

The Sound Between the Notes (She Writes Press 2021)
by Barbara Linn Probst 

Susannah’s career as a pianist has been on hold for nearly sixteen years, ever since her son was born. An adoptee who’s never forgiven her birth mother for abandoning her, Susannah has vowed to put her own child first, no matter what. Now, faced with an unexpected chance to vault into that elite tier of “chosen” musicians, there’s just one problem: somewhere along the way, she has lost the power and the magic that used to be hers at the keyboard. She needs to get them back.

Her quest ― what her husband calls her obsession ― turns out to have a cost Susannah couldn’t have anticipated. Even her hand betrays her, as Susannah learns that she has a progressive hereditary disease that’s making her fingers cramp and curl ― a curse waiting in her genes and the legacy of a birth family that gave her little else. As her now-or-never concert draws near, Susannah is catapulted back to memories she’s never been able to purge ― and forward to choices she never thought she would have to make. (Read BookTrib’s review here.)

Anna’s Dance: A Balkan Odyssey (Black Rose Writing 2020)
by Michele Levy 

Whether classical Western, Balkan folk, Irish ballads, Delta blues or Hebrew chants, music embodies Anna Rossi’s heritage and spirituality. It’s 1968; the world is in turmoil and so is 23-year-old Anna, who questions everything about her life from her mostly Jewish heritage to her fear of intimacy. Summer in Europe with a childhood friend offers a perfect way to escape her demons. 

When her friend abandons her in Italy, Anna makes the rash decision to travel onward with strangers. Her journey takes a perilous turn, leading her into conflict in Eastern Europe and into the heart of the Balkans. As the trip immerses her in other cultures and leads her into love and loss, Anna is confronted by the tragic results of suppressed, marginalized ethnicities and a warped sense of self and heritage. It takes a poignant moment in an Istanbul synagogue, having sung the Avinu Malkeinu, for Anna to finally embrace her Jewish roots.

Dignity & Grace (2020)
by Alison Ragsdale

On her 21st birthday, gifted cellist Iona Muir receives a package from her estranged father containing a letter from her mother, Grace, a talented musician who tragically died ten years earlier. Reeling from what she reads, Iona soon discovers a mysterious, faded photograph of her mother, hidden inside her cello case.

Honoring her mother’s request, Iona visits Grace’s beloved music teacher, taking the first step on an emotional trail of discovery that has been left for her. As Grace’s story unfolds, Iona gains a deeper insight into the mother she lost and the heartbreaking truth about Grace’s last months. The more Iona learns, the more she is drawn back to her family home, on the remote Scottish island of Orkney, and to her father.

The Lost Concerto (Oceanview 2015)
by Helaine Mario 

A woman and her young son flee to a convent on a remote island off the Breton coast of France that generations of seafarers have named Ile de la Brume or Fog Island. In a chapel high on a cliff, a tragic death occurs and a terrified child vanishes into the mist. The child’s godmother, Maggie O’Shea, haunted by the violent deaths of her husband and best friend, has withdrawn from her life as a classical pianist. But when a recording of unforgettable music and a grainy photograph surface, connecting her missing godson to a long-lost first love, Maggie is drawn inexorably into a collision course with criminal forces, decades-long secrets, stolen art and musical artifacts, and deadly terrorists. 

Her search will take her to the Festival de Musique in Aix-en-Provence, France, where she discovers answers to her husband’s death, an unexpected love, and a musical masterpiece lost for decades.