THE SONGBOOK OF BENNY LAMENT
by AMY HARMON
From the bestselling author of What the Wind Knows and From Sand and Ash comes a powerful love story about a musical duo who put everything on the line to be together.
New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing.
Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob—and Benny—would rather avoid.
It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist. Benny’s songs and Esther’s vocals are an explosive combination, a sound that fans can’t get enough of. But though America might love the music they make together, some people aren’t ready for Benny Lament and Esther Mine on—or off—the stage.
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“Utter perfection. The diversity. The inclusivity. The representation of an interracial couple in the 60s, but more importantly the struggle of a Black woman trying to make it in a world that doesn’t want any good for her. I have no words except that this is a must read.” —Shanora Williams, New York Times bestselling author
“With a vibrant backdoor view to the New York music scene in the 60s, Harmon constructs authentic, enduring characters that will capture your heart and break it too. Elegantly written, with sensitivity to the racial hurdles of the era, this book is a work of historical fiction that will absolutely not be forgotten.” —EmmyB, host of the Lovely Books podcast
“A truly incredible read. Amy Harmon has a way of writing characters that invoke deep emotion, and Benny and Esther are no exception. A raw, real, and inspiring love story.” —DC Renee, author of Scrubbed
“Wildly beautiful. Amy Harmon blew me away again…Everyone should read this book.” —LJ Evans, IAN award-winning author
“The story is enlightening, heart-breaking, and ultimately inspiring as these two beautiful characters find the soul of what it truly means to be human and love. Powerful writing, enthralling reading!” —TJ Mackay, founder and publisher of InD’tale Magazine
“Amy’s stories are always deeply addictive and transporting, but beyond that, her compassion and insight into the human experience raises her work to another level completely. She is in a class of her own.” —Mia Sheridan, New York Times bestselling author
I proposed The Songbook of Benny Lament to my publisher in 2019 and finished it in early 2020, right before the world was gripped in our current troubles. I had no sense of what was coming when I wrote about Benny and Esther and the world they lived in. I had no idea how complicated life would become. In some ways, it made the complicated nature of the past easier to understand.
When I told my mom I was writing a historical love story set in the 60s, she said, “The 1960s isn’t historical.” Meaning: “I was alive then, so it wasn’t that long ago.” No, Mom. It wasn’t that long ago. And unlike some of the novels I’ve written, there was no comfortable distance from the setting or the time.
I wasn’t alive in the sixties. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of the decade this story was set in—not the music scene, the Mafia life, the political climate, or the civil rights movement. I was not there. But when the idea for this story took root in me, it flowered quickly. Benny and Esther started talking, and I wasn’t about to ignore them. I wrote their story, and I poured my whole self into it.
When I was finished, I sent it to a handful of beta readers. Sher, who happens to be a Black woman and a pianist, shared her thoughts with me after she was done. She loved the book and had great feedback. As we visited about different aspects of the music world and the story, our conversation inevitably led to the concept of identity and how my skin color is different from Esther’s. We talked about the task and the test of writing a character who is not ME. That made me laugh a little, because in eighteen novels, I’ve never written a character who IS me. Men, women, and children from all walks of life and experiences stroll the pages of my books and tell their stories.
Esther Mine and Benny Lament are not Amy Harmon. They are my creations, but they are not me. And though my characters are born in my heart and raised with my research, the hope is that they will become real to my readers, and that they will be authentic to the actual people who have lived similar experiences. That is the test and the responsibility.
As I told Sher, I may not be the same color as Esther. I may not be Sicilian like Benny. I definitely don’t play the piano like he does. But we are the same more than we are different. We may not share an entire identity–no two people do–but we share a world. I share Benny’s love of music and his passion for creation. I share Esther’s hopes and her fears as a woman, a daughter, and a sister. I share Benny’s complicated feelings about family, and Esther’s desire to be part of something bigger and something better. In truth, I had no trouble “being” Esther or Benny at all.
That is the magic of books. Of stories. We become someone else. We walk inside them. We go where they’ve been and where they’re going. And the walls between us and them disappear. Every reader can attest to this.
Finally, this book isn’t a story about trauma. It’s a story about triumph. About love. About family. It’s a story about music, and how it heals and holds and helps us along when everything else fails. I hope you feel every note in The Songbook of Benny Lament. I know I did.
About the author:
Amy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in seventeen different languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.
Amy Harmon has written sixteen novels – the Washington Post bestseller What the Wind Knows, the USA Today bestsellers The Bird and The Sword, The Smallest Part, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as the #1 Amazon bestselling historical From Sand and Ash, Where the Lost Wander, The First Girl Child, The Queen and The Cure, The Law of Moses, The Song of David, Infinity + One, Slow Dance in Purgatory, Prom Night in Purgatory, and the New York Times bestseller, A Different Blue. Her latest novel, The Songbook of Benny Lament, a historical romance, is now available.
Find Amy online:
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