Scientists who map the human brain have discovered that when most people hear music, their pleasure centers are stimulated in the brain. When musicians hear music, their language centers are stimulated. For violin virtuoso Sabrina Starling, the protagonist of Karin Kallmaker’s novel, Maybe Next Time, music is not only a language, it is the language she depends upon to express her emotions.
Bree, as she is known from childhood, first began to play the violin when she was four years old. And it is music that allows her to survive the death of her mother and her father before she is six. Music is the only way she can breech the wall that grief and loss have built around her childhood. With her music she can adapt to living in rural Hawaii with her mother’s best friend, Lani, and Lani’s daughter, Jorie. Through her music, Bree will be blessed time and again as her life crosses other great musicians who guide or encourage her.
However, there are things that Bree doesn’t seem able to understand. She struggles to understand her feelings for her Jorie. Her love for Jorie is exciting and frightening… Identifying as lesbian when she goes off to study music at the Conservatory, Bree discovers other women who are very attracted to her. For several years she takes a “living in the moment” approach to romance, indulging in the groupies of the classical music world. While her professional life was successful beyond imagining, her personal life was lonely…
Told in a series of flashbacks, Maybe Next Time is not a light read. The journey of Bree’s redemption is a painful one. She must face her own arrogance and mistakes. However, it is a rich story with complex characters struggling with their faults and weaknesses as well as several charming moments. Kallmaker reminds readers what it was like to be a sixteen-year old girl in 1976 and realize that you’re in love with another girl…
Kallmaker depicts respectful insights into Polynesian culture. Perhaps one of the most touching moments in Bree’s childhood is when Lani takes her to a native Hawaiian celebration… Even with the angst there are signature Kallmaker elements. The erotic energy between Bree and Jorie is electric and evolves throughout the novel. Kallmaker’s wit enlivens the book. There are delightful moments such as Bree’s first opportunity to play an 18th century Guarneri violin. Or the poker night when Diana and company create new group terms including, “A clench of clits” and “a lick of lesbians!” (p186)
No “formula” romance, Maybe Next Time is an engrossing, compelling story of redemption, healing and surviving. Kallmaker has explored complicated themes and done so with heart and a touch of humor. In this reader’s opinion, it is one of her best novels.
Midwest Review of Books
Maybe Next Time – Karin Kallmaker