By Ekta R. Garg
April 29, 2015
Rated: Borrow it
A young woman accepts a challenge: to form a choir so a church with a diminishing congregation can boost its numbers. Despite her hesitation to accept the pastor’s charge, the woman’s connection to the previous church pianist compels her. What starts as the repayment of an emotional debt turns into a life-altering dynamic. Debut author Sally Kilpatrick gives readers a sweet book with minor hitches in The Happy Hour Choir.
At the age of 25, Beulah Land has a life routine that works for her. She lives with her former piano teacher, Ginger, and spends most nights playing the piano at the town’s main bar, The Fountain. Beulah owes a lot to Ginger; when Beulah left home as a pregnant teen, Ginger took her in. Through the years, Beulah has turned into Ginger’s caretaker as Ginger battles cancer. The two enjoy a close relationship, and Ginger takes advantage of that closeness when she petitions Beulah with a request.
Ginger knows her cancer doesn’t allow her much time, and she wants Beulah to take over her position as the church pianist. Beulah fights Ginger’s decision but knows she really doesn’t have a choice. Despite a personal pledge years earlier not to step into a church ever again, Beulah begins to play at the Sunday services.
Trouble arises when the members of the choir protest Beulah’s appointment by refusing to perform. The new pastor, Luke Daniels, doesn’t know quite what to make of the situation because he has his own worries; if attendance doesn’t increase soon, the church will be shut down. Luke gives Beulah an opportunity to fix two problems with one solution: build a new choir to perform and make it good enough to attract wayward congregation members.
Beulah starts to consider prospects for her new choir and turns to the people she knows best: the regulars at The Fountain. Some of the elderly members of the church lodge a complaint against Beulah’s choices, but the new choir members come together with a harmonious sound that draws new people to services. Luke supports Beulah, and she realizes she can’t deny it any longer: despite their differences, Beulah feels a strong attraction to Luke. Their interactions lead her to believe he feels the same way.
As Beulah spends time with the choir she finds herself in the position to help some of the singers, and she realizes along the way that she’s actually gaining a bit of redemption for herself—which terrifies and relieves her all at the same time.
Debut author Sally Kilpatrick gives readers some sweet moments in The Happy Hour Choir. She handles the physical attraction between Beulah and Luke with a fresh take, allowing Luke to stay true to his personal vows while functioning as a healthy young man. The portions with Beulah and Ginger also offer touching mother-daughter moments without all the complications that relationship might normally dictate. The cast of supporting characters, while slightly typical, do an able job.
The book falters in relating Beulah’s past as well as the past of one of the supporting characters. Readers will most likely guess the back stories of both characters long before the characters themselves reveal the information. Also, the names and attitudes of the characters might suggest a particular racial profile, but Kilpatrick doesn’t give cues one way or the other. This detail might distract some readers from the story at hand.
In the end, however, The Happy Hour Choir offers a fun read, and readers could definitely Borrow it for a beach read this summer.