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A review of Of Song and Water from Donna Seaman in Booklist


Music and nearly magical evocations of a Midwest landscape shape Coulson’s debut, The Vanishing Moon (2004). In his second novel, he portrays a jazz guitarist with grievously injured hands and a complicated relationship with Lake Huron. A third-generation sailor, Coleman, down-and-out and divorced, struggles with his disability (the price of hubris) and tries to be a good father to his wise teenage daughter. Haunted by his rumrunner grandfather and volatile father, he has inherited his father’s boat, the Pequod, a clue to Coulson’s subtle riffing on Moby-Dick. Patterns of dark and light shift and morph like shadows on water as Coulson choreographs complicated relationships between Coleman, who is white, and black musicians, including his honorable teacher. Coulson’s complexly elegiac tale is, in part, a tribute to his mentor, poet and Great Lakes mariner Stephen Tudor. Love abandoned, violence sustained, guilt, grief, the transcendence of sailing and making music, all play in jazzlike counterpoint. Coulson’s rhapsodic novel progresses from harsh equations of black and white to an exaltation of color.



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