Shannon's Reviews > The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music

The Soloist by Steve Lopez
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Jan 24, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 2010, library-book-club
Recommended to Shannon by: Jennifer Ritz
Recommended for: Anyone interested in learning more about mental illness.
Read from January 31 to February 04, 2010 , read count: Once

I read this book, based on a recommendation by a friend from my book club. She had suggested it as one of our selections this year, but it just didn't make the cut. I am glad that I took the time to check it out!

This is the story about a LA Times journalist, Steve Lopez, who, in searching for material for his next column, stops and talks to an African American man playing a two-stringed violin. Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, homeless and mentally ill, is friendly, and the two begin talking. Lopez soon finds out the Ayers used to be a Julliard scholarship student and finds himself wanting to learn more about his new-found friend. Happy that he discovered content for an entire series of columns, Lopez soon finds out that his relationship with Ayers develops into something way more complicated yet enriching...that of being an advocate and a friend.

I think that what I liked most about this book is that it was not your typical "feel good" story. Ayers is not cured of his mental illness, nor does Lopez convince him to start psychotherapy or take medications by the end of the book. He IS successful, however, in convincing Ayers to start living off the streets, and I think that the book does a very good job of portraying the frustrations of understanding severe mental illness that most of we "lay people" have versus the "celebrating the small steps" and patient attitude that the mental health community employ with working with folks such as Ayers. However, I did "feel good" reading this book! I believe that was mostly because it seemed to be a very accurate portrayal of a person living with mental illness and how addressing this disease is not as easy as most people would think. I felt alot of pride for both Lopez and Ayers.

Lopez writes this story in a very readable, sensitive, humble, and approachable way. I believe that both Lopez and Ayers are very brave men...Lopez for even making initial contact with Ayers (I mean how many of us strike up conversations with homeless people to see what their "story" is) and Ayers for living with an disease that is so hard for those of us not stricken with it to understand and for taking small steps to improving his situation. Maybe because Lopez is a journalist, I found the writing to be very straightforward and easy and took almost no effort at all. I am now anxious to check out the movie.
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Reading Progress

02/04/2010 page 124
45.42% "So far, a pretty interesting read..."

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