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The Music Room

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  261 ratings  ·  37 reviews
In an incredible novel of devastating beauty, Martin Lambert must come to terms with the aftermath of his brother's suicide. Replaying sad melodies of his affluent youth, Martin embarks on a poignant journey through his family's haunted past--an unforgettable voyage of self-discovery that leads him from a childhood tainted by shocking parental abuse to a present clouded by ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 7th 2001 by Picador (first published 1990)
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The author does an incredible job of telling the story of a dysfunctional family. In speaking the story through the alcohol blurred mind of Marty, the events unfold, fold and refold in and around each other in such a way that the waves of emotion can almost be felt by the reader. To say that this family drinks too much is a gross understatement. I kept wanting to beg Marty to stop drinking. The struggle to understand his brother's despair and death was so inhibited by his constant inebriated sta ...more
This is a beautifully written book with extraordinary emotional power. I can compare it's overwhelming ability to move me only with that of the consuming power of a great piece of music. Like a powerful piece of music, The Music Room induces feelings of such depth without a specific, identifiable source. McFarland's ability to express the layers of human emotion is remarkable and makes The Music Room one of those exceptional books in which you can truly become engrossed.
I did enjoy the book. I could have done without some of the more graphic scenes. Being a bit more sensitive, I don't enjoy explicit or gory scenes in books or movies. That said, if these things don't bother you, this book would be enjoyable. The story of finding the reason for his brother's death was a good one. Getting flashbacks along the way helps you to get to know the characters involved.
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
The Music Room by Dennis McFarland is a recommended novel that focuses on a dysfunctional family of alcoholics.

Marty Lambert's life is already in shambles when he receives the call informing him that his brother, Perry has committed suicide in NYC. Marty, a record producer in San Francisco, and his wife are divorcing and he has already started to reduce his possessions down to 2 suitcases when he recieves the phone call that sends him to NYC to try and figure what lead his younger brother to app
“She nodded, then said, ‘No note. Boy, is that ever like him. You know, I think I’ll write the story of your brother’s life and call it ‘No Note’’” (45).
“We would never have survived a public school, sheltered as we are by the roomy sanctuary of extreme privilege” (69).
“...her voice of midnight blue (my favorite crayon as a boy” (125).
“Gasser, elderly, bald, a prolific prescription writer of dubious medical skills...” (136-137).
“The bartender's simple question 'Lime?' seemed loaded with implicat
After his brother's suicide, Marty Lambert is set adrift, lost and lonely and desperately seeking some sort of closure. He backtracks through his brother Perry's life as well as his own while trying to figure out his future. Dennis McFarland presents a trouble cast of characters: Marty's parents are wealthy, depressed alcoholics, Jane Owlcaster is Perry's girlfriend who has fallen for Marty, and Marty is left to pick up the pieces when it all crashes.

Dennis McFarland's prose is beautiful and hau
Apr 16, 2013 Suzanne added it
Shelves: delete
A devastating story of the firewalk of grief, what it does to memories, what it does to identity, and the desperate reach for light at the end of the tunnel. As Martin learns that his only sibling has jumped off a building in NYC, he begins his journey of remembrance thru a horribly dysfunctional childhood, with two raging alcoholic parents , and must face a misunderstanding that has colored his life. Moments of pathos and moments of beauty, this is a skillfully written, and ultimately hopeful n ...more
More than once during this reading I thought about quitting. Who needs to read a book about a family of rich alcoholics? But the writing was so good I kept plugging away, and now I'm glad I did, for the ending is excellent. Hard to believe this was the author's first book, and not autobiographical. By the end of the book you feel as though, not that you know the characters, but that you have actually lived with them! Actually an interesting book.
Had to give this book five stars..McFarland is a brilliant writer. Hard to believe this was his first book (1990). His writings come from the dark side of human nature. Sad but so well crafted you have to keep reading. Or at least I did. I love his style... This story centers around a very strange family wondering the whys of a suicide and of a brother who is lost with his own demons but finds his way to redemption....
This book kept my attention from the beginning, which, considering the depressing main character, was quite commendable on the part of the author. I guess the main theme is dealing with devastating grief. This book also touched on how misinterpretations of things we witnessed as children can scar us well into our adult years if they are never spoken of and resolved. I was glad for the up lifting ending for sure!
Valley Haggard
in mood and essence the music room reminds me of herman hesse, oddly enough. It's like a surreal dream mixed with a bag of candy you can't stop eating. I loved it. And when I met Dennis McFarland at the JRW festival last year, he was super nice. I bought one of his newer books but haven't read it.
Because I thoroughly enjoyed a couple of McFarland's books (Letter From Point Clear and Prince Edward), I thought I'd try McFarland's debut novel, published in 1990. MdFarland's writing is lovely from the get-go, but I was not thrilled with this book.
David Saliba
Nov 25, 2011 David Saliba rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to David by: Roanne
Shelves: literary-fiction
A beautifully written book with a wonderful ending. It is hard to believe that this is McFarland's first book. The good news is that he has written more. I will definitely be adding some of his other titles to my to-read list.
This was a rather depressing book as it deals with a brother coming to grips with his father's death due to alcoholism as well as the death of his brother of suicide. He himself has become an alcoholic as is his mother. The characters the family surround themselves with are odd, unlikeable and also alcoholics.There are saving graces as he gets sober and discovers small stories that reveal how much his father loved his sons and what a kind man he was. Hopeful ending was appreciated after the angs ...more
Lydia Presley
Sometimes I pick up a book and, in spite of it and my best intentions, we don't click. I thought The Music Room was off to a running start when I began to read the story of a man who had just learned that his brother took his own life - I mean, that's a hard-hitting entrance to a story, right? Unfortunately (and this is not a morbid joke), everything went down from that high moment. I struggled with The Music Room , folks. This one slowed me down, big time, and honestly - for a while, it made me ...more
Paula Schumm
Thank you to NetGalley and Open Road Media for a free copy of The Music Room by Dennis McFarland.
The Music Room by Dennis McFarland is not a happy book. It is a novel about Marty Lambert, whose brother commits suicide. Marty is called from the west coast back to the east coast, where his brother Perry lived. We learn about the two brothers' upbringing, in which they are surrounded by wealth, music, and alcoholism. The Music Room is very well written, and good wins out in the end.
I kept forgetting how young this character actually WAS in the book (only 29) , I guess because he seemed so worn out by his life. It was a realistic depiction of how despair can descend upon you , and how hard it is to work through what got you there, especially at that age. What a bunch of tragic messed up people he had in his life! It left me feeling sad, but hopeful.
This is a book that must be read to the end.
Everyone has "issues" they must deal with and some have a lot ~ but these can be the very pieces that bring one to be better place, with a deeper realization of who one is.
After his brother's suicide, Martin starts a simultaneous inner/outer search for answers. He does it through layers of memory told in a wonderful voice that was captivating enough but I got tired of the old story of people damaged by their alcoholic, messed-up family. It could have been an Oprah book.
Jessica Bang
2.5 stars. Overall, the redemptive narrative is satisfactory, but Marty's narration is not that engaging.
By page two we learn that the main character, Martin, is separated and will most likely soon be divorced from his wife and that his only brother, Perry, has killed himself. The rest of the book is Martin’s quest to come to terms with both these issues and the childhood trauma of growing up in an alcoholic family. The reader follows Martin as he takes the necessary steps to address his brother’s death
Emily Mellow
Lovely book. Great writing, compelling plot.
I think I like books about wealthy families so much, because it's a relief to know how much trouble they still have, despite the money. Sure, they have leisure and plenty, but they can also be so dysfunctional, neurotic, real. Makes me feel better about living in the lowest tax bracket.
A really haunting and poignant book about a man who, despite his privleged upbringing, has a lot of dark secrets and whose parents drifted in and out of his life in an alcoholic haze. He revisits all these painful memories when his brother commits suicide. Very good read, but sad.
Tragic but readable. A 30 year old man must come to grips with his yunger brother's suicide. As he tries to discover the why of it, he must deal with his childhood with 2 wealthy alcoholics and his own alcoholism.
This book captured my attention at the start, began to play out and then seemed to stallIt had solid elements and potential, but it was as if the author's editor didn't complete his job.
I first read this when I was in high school and I remember thinking it was really good. There are so many things you get mixed up about in high school.
Lisa Braunstein
I read this at least 10 years ago and have found myself re-reading it a couple of times. There's just something about it.
I would've liked this a lot better had Lie Down in Darkness not existed. Way too many parallels.
Sep 16, 2012 Jeff added it
really great so far - just what i was looking for - thanks for the recommendation shaum!
This book started out very well and then just sort of fell of the wagon, for me.
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A 1975 Brooklyn College graduate, McFarland also attended and later taught at Goddard College and Stanford University. At Stanford, McFarland worked as teacher of creative writing from 1981 to 1986. His fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories and The New Yorker. McFarland is married Michelle Simons, and together they have two children. He lives with his family in Massachussetts.
More about Dennis McFarland...
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