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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Life and Other Love Songs

Narrators: Dominic Hoffman, Karen Murray, Nicole Lewis

Penguin Audio

ISBN: 978-1984802460

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: 04/11/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars

A father’s sudden disappearance exposes the private fears, dreams, longings, and joys of a Black American family in the late decades of the twentieth century, in this page-turning and intimate new novel from the author of The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls.

It’s a warm, bright October afternoon, and Ozro Armstead walks out into the brilliant sunshine on his thirty-seventh birthday. At home, his wife Deborah and daughter Trinity prepare a surprise celebration; down the street, his brother waves as Oz heads back to his office after having lunch together.

But he won’t make it to the party or even to his briefcase back at his desk. He's about to disappear.

In the days, months, and years to follow, Deborah and Trinity look backward and forward as they piece together the life of the man they love, but whom they come to realize they might never have truly known.

In a gripping narrative that moves from the Great Migration to 1970s Detroit and 1990s New York, we follow the hopes, triumphs, losses, and secrets that build up and tear apart an American family.

My Review

Master storyteller Anissa Gray returns following The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls with her latest highly anticipated emotionally-charged multi-generational family saga, LIFE AND OTHER LOVE SONGS —a heartfelt story of a father's disappearance and a Black American family seeking answers.

Oz Armstead never returned to work after lunch with his younger brother Tommy.

He never made it home that evening to his wife, Deborah, and daughter, Trinity.

He never made it to his surprise 37th birthday party.

How did Oz disappear, and why?

The disappearance will impact the lives of many for years to come.

Deborah and Trinity try to piece together the life of the man they loved but did not honestly know.

From the Great Migration to 1970s Detroit and 1990s New York, we follow the hopes, triumphs, losses, and secrets that build up and tear apart an American family.

LIFE AND OTHER LOVE SONGS will draw you in with the beautiful writing and its raw and relatable characters of this dysfunctional family of the late twentieth century with multiple POVs from past to present.

EMOTIONALLY COMPLEX, secrets of the past and truths are unraveled in this tragic story, full of emotion with highly charged topics: rape, poverty, racism, class, childhood trauma, Detroit riots (1967), the Vietnam war, mental health, AIDS, LGBT, infidelity, and alcoholism.

More character-driven than plot-driven—with superb storytelling and, ultimately, hope. I recommend it to those who enjoy multi-generational family dramas with mystery/intrigue—for fans of Tayari Jones.

Ideal for book clubs and further discussions.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: April 11, 2023

My Rating: 4 Stars


Named a Most Anticipated Book by Time ∙ Essence ∙ Real Simple ∙ Good Housekeeping ∙ Atlanta-Journal Constitution ∙ The Root ∙ SheReads ∙ Atlanta Magazine ∙ Zibby Mag

"This novel wields themes of generational trauma, class and race as pickaxes, excavating a Black family’s history and making room for the future to bloom.”


“Riveting, rhythmic, transcendent, Life and Other Love Songs is a stellar family saga. Anissa Gray is a writer to watch.”

—Jacqueline Woodson, New York Times bestselling author of Red at the Bone

“Life and Other Love Songs builds beautifully—we care about these characters while coming to understand that the ground beneath their feet is constructed of secrets. Anissa Gray’s novel feels musical in structure—the octaves rise when the music calls for it; truths are revealed by the invisible beats of this gorgeous, rich story.”

—Ann Napolitano, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward and Oprah Book Club Pick Hello Beautiful

“Anissa Gray's Life and Other Love Songs is one of those rare novels that pulled me out of my life for a few days. The characters are real, vivid, complex - as in life. It's a story that explores the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into hope.”

—Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes

“Cleverly structured and emotionally precise, Love and Other Love Songs is a powerhouse ballad about a family whose histories—shared and individual—will pierce straight to the heart. With empathy and insight, Anissa Gray writes an expertly crafted family drama perfect for fans of Celeste Ng.”

—Tara Conklin, New York Times bestselling author The Last Romantics

“Life and Other Love Songs is a harsh, sometimes haunting, astonishingly moving, exceptionally complex novel about family and music and hurt and fear and pride and love and loss. Anissa Gray tells this story with such grace, insight and precision that readers will think of these characters long after they close the book. This is what writing should be.”

—LaToya Watkins, author of Perish

"Gray does not disappoint.”

—Publishers Weekly

"The trajectory of Gray's flawed but relatable characters offers hope that even deep, long-festering wounds can heal.” —Kirkus Reviews

"Gray shows the complex natures of these broken characters and how abuse, deceit, and life’s struggles are all made worse by racism, poverty, and homophobia. A great pick for book clubs and an essential purchase.”

—Library Journal

"Humming with heart and just enough suspense to keep the pages turning, this is arresting.”


"A powerful narrative that explores the realities of race, class, and generational history in the twentieth century.”

—The Root

About the Author

Anissa Gray is a senior editor at CNN Worldwide and a contributor to Emmy and duPont-Columbia award–winning coverage of some of the most consequential stories of our time. She began her career at Reuters as a reporter, based in New York, covering business news and international finance. Born in St. Joseph, Michigan, Gray studied English and American literature at New York University. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her wife. WEBSITE







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