This month our book club decided to read, “The Soloist,” by Steve Lopez. We primarily read fiction but the story sounded appealing and the topic timely. Also, the book was just made into a movie and some of our members (I won’t mention any names) would rather watch the movie than read the book so this gave them an option.
The book centers around Steve Lopez, a writer for the LA Times, and a homeless musician named Nathanial Ayers. Mr. Lopez is strolling the LA streets one day searching for a story when he hears beautiful violin music being played. Looking for the source, he finds Mr. Ayers, a homeless man playing a two-string violin. Steve thinks this could make an interesting story so he stops to talk with him. This chance encounter leads to a deep, profound friendship that changes both of their lives forever.
Not only is the story fascinating (I devoured it in a few short days), but the facts in it are startling and real. The book sheds light on some pretty unsavory topics. As Mr. Lopez researches Nathaniel’s past he finds out that Mr. Ayers was once a student at Julliard, heading for a successful career as a musician. His path to success is cut short when he begins having paranoid delusions and hearing voices in his head. Turns out, he has schizophrenia. His disease spirals out of control and eventually he ends up living on Skid Row, playing music to the backdrop of traffic and violence. The other issue the book addresses is homelessness. It’s so easy for us in our comfy homes with stocked refrigerators to turn the other way and ignore the thousands of people sleeping in the cold, starving to death. This book made me look at them, really look at them, because the truth is they’re out there whether I chose to acknowledge them or not.
I recommend this book to everyone. It is, as they say, a must-read!