I have discovered in my up-lit journey that not all stories have a traditional, sickly-sweet happy ending, and that’s a good thing. In ‘real life’ not everyone gets their happy ending but they have a happy journey, full of memories, family and love.
This is a story about family, true love and not taking yourself too seriously.
Cooper’s debut novel, The Songs of Us, published in 2018, centres on the King family; mum Melody, teenagers Flynn and Rose and missing presumed dead dad Devon. It has been 11 years since Devon disappeared from the family home shortly after a car crash involving him, his two young children and an oak tree and we are introduced to Melody doing her weekly shop where her ‘condition’ becomes clear.
Melody bursts out into song when she is stressed, complete with misheard lyrics and questionable choreography. The cause of her condition has been put down to slipping on ice one morning where she banged her head and lost consciousness. This incident added more woes to the family where an angry Flynn places the blame on his dad for leaving them, otherwise his mom would not have slipped on the ice.
Flynn’s anger for his absent dad manifests in him picking fights at school which lies heavily on his younger sister, Rose, who is already bullied for having ginger hair and a ‘mad mom’. Rose never gave up on finding out what happened to her dad and still trawls the internet daily for any clues that may lead them to him. A promising article leads the trio on a journey to finding Devon.
Who says up-lit doesn’t have to be beautifully written?
Not a word is wasted in the descriptions of the characters’ surroundings and their feelings; the story comes alive on the page and empathy is felt for each of the main characters. Cooper captures the relationship between a parent and teenage children complete with in-jokes and self-deprecating humour, often used to diffuse rising tensions in stressful situations.
Each song that Melody performs matches the situation that she is in but it also gives the reader a soundtrack to the story, which is not something that is commonly found in literature. The track listings include The Beatles, Rage Against the Machine and even the hymn Jerusalem. The lyrics are not transcribed, which I presume would be down to copyrighting laws, but I feel that even if they were the dynamic of Melody’s showcases would be lost as Cooper guides the reader through each song through Melody’s internal monologue.
My only critique would be that the supporting cast of characters seem two dimensional and get lost behind the rich, full characters of the King family and the exact circumstances behind Devon’s disappearance is never fully explained.
The Songs of Us is available from Bookshop.
Find out more about Emma Cooper here.