Review: Author creates equivalent of 'Cheers' bar

AP News
Posted: Jan 16, 2018 11:00 AM

"The Music Shop: A Novel" (Random House), by Rachel Joyce

Author Rachel Joyce has created the equivalent of the "Cheers" bar in a record store: "The Music Shop" is a warm, familiar place where everybody knows your name.

Sometimes people stop by to satisfy their craving for the new Michael Jackson or Genesis album, but they mostly are there for the companionship of a patchwork of disparate and unlikely friends who become family in every sense but their bloodlines.

It's worth noting that the store is located on Unity Street, which kind of says it all, and its neighbors include a tattoo parlor and a Christian-paraphernalia shop with plastic Nativity scenes and the like.

The shop is not in Boston, however, like the famous 1980s TV series bar. Instead, it's in a gritty corner of England, also in the '80s, but the setting really could be any industrial city that had seen its brightest manufacturing days behind it. Frank is the maestro bartender-type character, who'll listen and, more often than not, fix everyone else's problems but rarely looks inward at his own.

It's Frank's seemingly singular passion for music that brings hope and life to the community. His store, with its listening booths made to move each of its customers on his or her own musical journey, is, for a while, even more of a local hub than the corner pub.

(Music fans reading the book will hear in their heads the inspiring soundtrack that jumps from Aretha Franklin to Glenn Miller to Vivaldi.)

Eventually, though, Frank's all-vinyl record store can't keep pace with increasing vacancy signs and, honestly, changing times. That's when his disciples eventually rally to give back the unconditional love and kindness he has shown them.