The Shipping News was one of my favorite books–ever. This novel, Accordion Crimes
by the same author was not as engaging but a darned good read in its own right. The metaphor or theme was pure genius: a small green accordion which was passed from owner to owner over the decades, and character sketches of its various owners.
Written in 1996, the novel has been called by critics, “a masterpiece of storytelling.” It begins in 1890s’ Sicily, where the accordion maker fashions the small, elegant accordion. He and his son immigrate to America with dreams of opening a music store. They come to live in New Orleans, and when the accordion maker is murdered, the green accordion falls into the hands of someone who carried it onward to Iowa, then to Texas.
The music of the accordion is the “last link to their pasts ” for Mexicans, Africans, Poles, Germans, Norwegians, Irish, Basques, and Franco Canadians, as the instrument moves from owner to owner, family to family. It “becomes their voice[s] for their fantasies, sorrows, and exuberance[s],” all of which Proulx shares with the reader. The novel introduces many, many characters, each a representative of their ethnicity as the accordion travels across the continent and back. There is a surprise ending, which brings the reader’s memory all the way back to a forgotten event/detail. This novel is a darned good read.