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Elisa Lorello All of You Review
All of You by Elisa Lorello / Lancarello Enterprises: 246 pages, $16.95.
Elisa Lorello’s new novel All of You is her best book so far. It combines her signature wit and humor with complex character development and a thread of social commentary about age and gender that amplifies the core plot dilemmas without being strident. The protagonist is Joey “Paisley” Parker, a former teen pop star who has become one of only a few female sound engineers and producers in the music business. When she agrees to produce an album for Taro, an ageing rock quintet who will feel familiar to fans of Lorello’s previous book Friends of Mine – and anyone who was older than five in the 1980s – their shared past brings creative breakthroughs even as it reopens old wounds.
Lorello layers timeframes so smoothly that the reader moves seamlessly with Joey between the 1980s and the current time as she recalls the past and reflects on how it has shaped her present. That the past is revealed piecemeal throughout the narrative adds a satisfying frisson of tension that keeps the reader engaged, and for a particular slice of the reading public, it also mixes in a gratifying dose of nostalgia. Additionally, Lorello manages to include an impressive amount of technical jargon that moves the story forward rather than hindering its progress. Every reader will finish All of You with a much better understanding of how much work goes into making bands sound their best on the tracks we stream into our homes, cars, and workplaces.
The best part of this book, though, is the author’s deft inclusion of how age and gender affect the way we choose to live. Publishers often struggle to categorize Lorello’s work, since her stories focus on human relationships in all their guises, not just the romantic sort. Since this is what most of the books in a typical high school English curriculum do, it is hard not to wonder whether Lorello’s novels would just be considered “fiction” if they were written under a man’s name, without any perceived need for a modifier. In All of You, for instance, there is a romantic storyline woven throughout the narrative, but the primary arc of the story is about the love of music and how that shapes the way we relate to each other as humans. As Joey points out in the novel, though, being female often means that “woman” is attached as a qualifier: “I was always going to be a female producer as opposed to a producer.” Lorello helps the reader wrestle with the weight of that qualifier in various ways throughout the book, including a pivotal moment when Joey’s gender affects the potential ramifications of an ethical bind, possibly derailing the entire recording project. It is a testament to Lorello’s skill with dialogue that she can weave observations about systemic misogyny into a story while keeping the overall tone hopeful and entertaining.
Overall, Lorello’s stalwart fans will be pleased with this latest addition to her oeuvre, and she is sure to garner new fans, given this latest book’s satisfyingly complex characters and subtle but thought-provoking social overlay.