For readers of Stephanie Danler and Meg Wolitzer, Perfect Tunes is a breakout novel from Emily Gould about music, ambition, sacrifice, and how compromises and rebellion shape women’s destinies.
Have you ever wondered what your mother was like before she became your mother, and what she gave up in order to have you?
As Perfect Tunes opens we meet Laura, a songwriter with a one-of-a-kind talent. Newly arrived in New York City in the early days of the new millennium, she’s left behind her safe life in Ohio for the East Village, where she hopes to record her first album. But just as she begins to book gigs, she falls hard for a rock star on the rise who’s as wasted as he is compelling. His accidental death leaves Laura reeling—and, she soon learns, pregnant. Obligation, confusion, and romantic delusion conspire to convince her to keep the baby, and with the intermittent help of her friend and former bandmate Callie, she begins to raise her daughter Marie alone. She struggles to keep making music, but despite her best efforts it becomes too difficult. Soon, the only songs she writes are for the infant music classes she teaches, leading drooling infants and their parents in nonsensical sing-alongs.
Fourteen years later, Marie finds herself grappling with her father’s legacy as she battles depression and her mother. Laura has tried to keep Marie from asking too many questions about her biological father’s history, but her efforts to protect Marie may only be putting her in greater danger. When Marie runs away to track down Dylan’s family, it forces both mother and daughter to confront the heartbreak at the root of their relationship. Laura must face what she’s lost to motherhood and find out what parts of her former self might still be hers to reclaim.
Emily Gould is the author of the novel Friendship, Perfect Tunes, and the essay collection And the Heart Says Whatever. With Ruth Curry, she runs Emily Books, which sells and publishes books by women as an imprint of Coffee House Press. She has written extensively for TheNew York Times, New York magazine, The New Yorker, Bookforum, The Cut, Elle, Poetry, the London Review of Books, The Guardian, Slate, Jezebel, n + 1,and The Economist. She lives in New York City with her family.
“A wry, sharply observed coming-of-age- story for the post-recession era.” —People
“A vivid exploration of the missed connections and overwhelming isolation of modern urban life ... Compulsively readable.” —The Los Angeles Times
“The novel form . . . accentuates Ms. Gould's strengths as a writer. . . . It points to Ms. Gould's abilities as a keen-eyed noticer and her knack for nailing down her ravenous observations with energy and flair.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A very fine first novel . . . Most of us know honesty as a virtue, and fewer know it as a sneaky concept in the craft of fiction. The latter honesty is about eschewing cliché, mastering particular skills for making the reader feel confided in. The novel, or publishing itself, might be in jeopardy, but writing will live as long as there remains the distinct pleasure of being told an honest thing. It's a little frightening, though; once transmuted into a literary principle, honesty becomes a talent of which almost none of us is truly capable . . . I submit that something like the following is unlikely and true: Emily Gould is one of the honest ones.” —The Rumpus
“Two young women try to create the glamorous lives they've imagined for themselves while talking on Gchat from their desks at their less-than-ideal jobs. . . . Plot takes a back seat to Gould's razor-sharp humor and observations about life in New York among a class of young people who know more about how they'd like to live than how to pay for it. It's also a delight to read a novel that places female friendship at its center; we watch Bev and Amy manage their fluctuating feelings of love, jealousy and sometimes disdain for each other. . . . Gould brilliantly charts their ups and downs.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“Gould's novel is admirably, readably realistic—she knows these girls and the world they live in (including the omnipresence of technology and the way that it pervades relationships) . . . Gould nails the complex blend of love, loyalty, and resentment that binds female friends. It is worth reading for the richness of its details . . . and it offers new insight into the experience of young women.” —Publishers Weekly