This debut novel has gotten a ton of buzz, and won quite a few awards. The Final Revival of Opal and Nev is also a super slow burn. The first third of the book is an oral history of the eponymous band. The reader gathers that Opal & Nev were in many ways ahead of their time, an interracial proto-punk duo that should never have worked, but influenced the musical scene far beyond the two albums they released. We also gather that something really bad happened at the Rivington Showcase, though it takes quite a while to find out just what that Showcase was, and what exactly happened.
That “what exactly happened” is one of the central questions explored by Sunny Shelton, a music journalist who compiled the oral history we’re reading. Sunny, it turns out, has her own connection to both Opal & Nev and the Rivington Showcase, and so her research has a decidedly personal cast. After the oral history section, Sunny takes over as our narrator, blurring – and maybe losing altogether – the line of journalistic distance from her subjects.
For anyone interested in the music scene in the 70’s, this book will fascinate you. The author clearly has a deep knowledge of music history, and has included “quotes” from many real people, including Dick Cavett and the Rolling Stones. There is such a sense of place and time in this book, and you can almost hear the music that Opal and Nev create. Every character in the book is three dimensional, and the reader gets just as invested as Sunny in “figuring out” who Opal and Nev really are.
The one quibble that I had with this book was the pacing. Without the knowledge that this book was so well reviewed and regarded, I might not have made myself finish it. There is a big chunk in the middle that just slowed right down for me, and I put the book down for days at a time – it just didn’t hold my attention. The last quarter though, really found its momentum, and I appreciated very much the way the book concluded.