An electrifying novel about the meteoric rise of an iconic 1970s rock duo, their sensational breakup, and the dark secrets unearthed when they try to reunite for one last tour.
Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.
In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.
Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.
Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.
***Thanks to NetGalley and Quercus Books for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.
solid, good read:
I haven’t read anything with a narrative presented in this way before, a story told through interviews and first-person notes from the ‘author’ (everyone is comparing this to Daisy Jones & The Six which is still sitting in my TBR pile). Because of this, it took me a few chapters to relax into the narrative, I had to keep reminding myself that this was fiction and not a biography. The characters were so realistic, their dialogue exactly what you’d expect to read in interviews; from the false candour and pretend humility of celebrity to the ignorant bravado and self-satisfaction of the entitled. It was easy to believe these were real people with unique voices being interviewed.
At first, I struggled to understand what the actual story was here. Sure, the protagonist had a personal connection to Opal, but the Opal and Nev reunion show didn’t seem very exciting or relevant. But this book builds the suspense so subtly I could barely tell it was building until suddenly I found myself in the middle of a story I wasn’t expecting and I had to know how it was going to end.
It would be a discredit to Walton’s talent to give anything away, her ability to weave fictional characters through actual history, creating a compelling story at the same time, is remarkable. I will say that I was not expecting these innocent interviews, the protagonist’s attempt to learn more about the father she never knew, to become a poignant portrayal of race relations in the music industry and day-to-day life, both in the 1970s and present day.