Book Reviews

Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel: ARC Book Review

This is a spoiler-free review.

Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

Published July 21st, 2020 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books.

My rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone; after all, they’re as good as married in (almost) every way. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. In the intervening years, Gavin has gone on to become one of the classical music world’s reigning stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success.

Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling, dutifully following his ex-wife’s advice, breaks up with her over email and her twin twenty-somethings arrive unannounced, filling her empty nest with their big dogs, dirty laundry, and respective crises.

Bridget has problems of her own: her elderly father announces he’s getting married, and the Forsyth Trio is once again missing its violinist. She concocts a plan to host her dad’s wedding on her ramshackle property, while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight. But to catch the attention of the music world, she and Will place their bets on luring back Gavin, whom they’ve both avoided ever since their stormy parting.

Thank you to the publisher, Atria/Emily Bestler Books (Simon & Schuster), and NetGalley for providing me an e-ARC of this book. All thoughts are my own.

As someone who spent the better part of her high school career labeled as a band geek, and an ex-violinist who’s over the years participated in many a chamber group, string ensemble, and symphony orchestra, reading Poeppel’s Musical Chairs felt a lot like coming home after a long trip away. Between all the musical references and the commentary on the day-to-day reality of being a working musician in today’s economy, I found this novel to be good, solid fun, and a strong choice for anyone musically inclined in search of their next summer read. Bridget and Will are wonderful protagonists who instantly drew me in and made me want to see where their futures would take them.

And I have to admit I had no idea where that was going to be! After reading the synopsis online, I had a few expectations going into it, and I must say, absolutely none of them came to fruition – a quite rare experience for someone like me who prides herself on almost always knowing where a book is headed. 😂 But that’s not necessarily a bad thing! While it did turn out to be a very different story than the one I was anticipating, it was a pleasant read nonetheless.

I will note that this story featured a variety of perspectives throughout its execution – something I am wary of, because I find it to be sometimes confusing and often unnecessary. I felt in the case of this novel, including so many different POVs was both a strength and a weakness.

With so many important characters in the midst of a variety of different decisions and dilemmas, having the ability to see into the perspective of many of them helped to give both breadth and depth to the novel in its entirety. Nevertheless, I felt that even given that, there were still a number of additional perspectives shown once or twice throughout the book that were excessive, unhelpful, and unable to add anything productive to the plot in general.

However, I believe overall Musical Chairs is an enjoyable story, that manages to almost expertly balance its lighthearted nature with the more serious plot points found along the way.

What are some of your favorite books with musical protagonists?

Let me know!

Liza is a twenty-something book blogger who spends way too much time with her nose in books and feels way too much. She loves cooking, baking, reality tv show watching and, of course, reading. She can be found most often with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other. Her blog, Literary Liza, features bookish content like reviews, recommendations, and author interviews.


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