The Universe Playing Strings Discussion Journal

Tuesday night was the last Super Moon for 2016 and our Book Bistro met for our last discussion of the year as well. I chose The Universe Playing Strings, by R.M.Kinder because it is a beautifully written book that offers great insight into a world of passion and heartache and music that many of us know little about—even here in Las Vegas, where superstars grace our stages and arenas regularly. I also have the privilege of knowing the author and knew that this connection could offer tremendous insight into the world of writing, publishing, and reading.universeplayingstringscover

The discussion started off slowly and our first responder was interested mostly in my connection to the author and the book. Then another member said the book was so realistic that she didn’t like the characters and was actually angry at Amy for putting up with George. Another couldn’t understand how Carl could give up half his savings, although as the book progressed he understood Carl’s character better. Others remarked that Carl needed to be needed, which is why he chose a relationship with his bi-polar neighbor. We discussed that although Jack was privileged, he seemed to live simply and not take advantage of his father, to be respectful, even though he seemed naïve. One of us liked how Amy fell in love with the guitar. Another really liked Cora.

Although one or two members felt that Carl was the main character in the story, several in our group dissented.  One of us had not finished the book because it didn’t have a plot and he believed he knew the characters well enough. He found them egotistical, always interested in being better than someone else. Another believed that the characters used sex and music to try to connect with one another, never succeeding. Still others liked the happy ending, although they wondered if it was as realistic as portended.

Since I know the author, I enjoyed sharing her dedication—writing and re-writing—her love for her characters and her great talent with both music and words. We discussed her choice to make this book positive and the choice she made to shorten it and focus on fewer characters.

And what was the significance of the Tennessee Tenor? I suggested that he represents Nashville, the heart of country music, the talent and success just out of their reach but rubbing shoulders with them briefly. I’m sure I didn’t say it that way— nor as elegantly as the author does herself. That’s why this is just a taste of what it’s like to connect with us in the book club . . . the rest is up to you!

  • Other works discussed:
  • The Art Forger (2013) by B.A.Shapiro
  • The Banger Sisters (2002) DVD
  • Crazy Heart (2009) DVD
  • Genius (2016) DVD
  • Go Set a Watchman (2015)/To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee
  • Ricki and the Flash (2015) DVD

3 thoughts on “The Universe Playing Strings Discussion Journal

  1. From M.M.:
    – Although there are many characters in the book who have prominent roles in the story, for me Carl is the main character. He is the first one we meet and connect with, and his story continues throughout the book.
    – Although I think the book was sentimental, it wasn’t romantic. People cared deeply about their music. I found it to be realistic in many ways. People were happy, sad, hopeful, abused, forgiving, etc., just like many people everywhere.
    – I understood why it was so difficult for Amy to tell Will she had entered a contest. Her former boyfriend was very jealous of her and made her life miserable because she was so much more talented than he was. I think she was afraid Will’s reaction might also be negative. I loved the way Kinder used Will’s love and admiration for Amy when he asked her if she thought she could win first place next time.
    – The ending of the book was realistic for me. So many times in life when we are happy in a certain situation and with people, we forget to appreciate what’s going on. All of a sudden, people move, get new jobs, change interests, etc., and the time is gone. This is what happened in the book. People grew older, places closed, people moved on.

  2. It seems as though to me the main character was definitely Carl. As you moved through the book and the different individuals that interacted the author spun the book back to him and his different connections. I believe that the book was endearing however it showed people with character that were mainly interested in their music and their abilities to further their own careers. It let open for curiosity sake that these individuals represented lives of authentic people that maybe the author had come across in her lifetime and if not it gave you a feeling of being very realistic.
    As for Amy and Will she was frightened more so from being belittled as in her previous relationship and wished to show her talent alone. It paid off and her success in the competition allowed her a more balanced assessment of herself afterwards. I think that the love and understanding that Will showed gave us the readers a realistic look at relationships and how each one is different.
    I enjoyed the ending simply because it left you with a good outlook of each characters life as it may possibly progress in the future. Thoroughly enjoyed this reading, kudos to the author!

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