The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown
Number of pages: 309
My copy: hardbound, ordered from Book Depository
Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.
That was all before she turned fourteen.
Now, at sixteen, it’s over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano — on her own terms. But when you’re used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?
* * *
I used to play the piano when I was a kid. I’ve dreamed of having a small piano at home, but my parents settled for a keyboard instead (which was, in the end, a good choice, because  I didn’t really play piano for long; and  having a piano during the Ondoy/Ketsana flood of 2009 would just be horrible), and I took several lessons on it. I liked it a lot, and I always thought the piano was a lovely instrument and I wanted to be able to play it more. Unfortunately, by fifth grade, I realized that I didn’t really have that much of a musical aptitude. I mean, I can play, I can read notes, but I didn’t really develop that ear for listening to music and being able to play it without sheets. (But wait, does that even exist?)
But either way, even if I don’t play the piano now, I still like it. And I really like reading books with musicians in them, whether they’re bands, or singers (or girlfriends of singers), or a band manager, even. Plus, The Lucy Variations is a Sara Zarr novel, and I love Sara Zarr.
Lucy Beck-Moreau is a piano-playing prodigy, the next great concert pianist that everyone’s buzzing about. Or was, until she walked out on a major recital after learning of a death in the family. After she walked out, the piano playing was left to her younger brother, Gus, to fulfill the family’s expectations. When her brother gets a new piano teacher who not just teaches him but encourages Lucy to try again, she wonders if it’s worth it, and if she could ever escape what her family — most especially her grandfather — would think if she decides to go back and play again.
The Lucy Variations felt just a little different from the other Sara Zarr novels I’ve read, what with Lucy being a bit of a more quiet, organized little musical genius who just wanted to be normal. At first, it was hard getting to know Lucy because she felt so closed off, even if I was basically in her head all the time. But eventually, she started showing more of herself, to understand how it is to be where she was, and how suffocated she felt with the pressure of her family in playing the piano. Lucy felt real — despite being a little detached — and I eventually started caring for what she cared about in the book, most especially her brother. I liked how she struggled not to play and when she played, she got lost in it, and I could see that she really loved it. Piano, the music, and making music. I think the only thing that really niggled me in Lucy is her attraction to older men — way older men, which was really something because she’s just sixteen. But perhaps it wasn’t really that kind of attraction, but more of seeking attention. She never had the chance to be around boys her age, at least ones who didn’t see her as competition.
The overall story was quiet, and maybe because of the music aspect, I felt like there was an accompanying background music to all of this while I was reading it. I liked The Lucy Variations, overall. Perhaps not as much as I liked Once Was Lost or How to Save a Life, but still good enough. I sort of called what happened near the end a few pages before it, and when it happened, I was secretly glad because I always felt there was something fishy about that character. And I liked how Lucy saw it later on, how she saw past the hurt and what had come out from it. I guess that is the best example of what “daring greatly” meant, as one of my favorite bloggers said in one blog post, how in the end, Lucy dared again, and it was what mattered: Because when was the last time she gave her whole heart to something? (p.291)
Number of dog-eared pages: 24
Favorite dog-eared quotes:
Sometimes, you should be allowed a tiny bit of joy that would stay with you for more than five minutes. That wasn’t too much to ask. To have a moment like this, and be able to hold onto it. (p. 78)
Adulthood is a perpetual state of confusion. (p. 182)
But what they’d done together, what had been opened by becoming so close, she could still love that. She could love their conversations and their hours at the piano and the results of their work. She could even love the way it hurt right now, because when was the last time she gave her whole heart to something? (p. 291)
That, all of it, belonged to her. She didn’t have to let Will take it away, the way she’s let her grandfather, the business, herself, take her love for music. She would hold on to what was her. Let go of what wasn’t. (p. 291)