ARC Review: Searching for Jimmy Page by Christy Alexander Hallberg

The unraveling of eighteen-year-old Luna Kane’s haunted past begins in the winter of 1988, when her dying great-grandfather, a self-proclaimed faith healer, claims he hears phantom owls crying in the night.
“Them owls, like music. Can you hear the music?” he implores her in his final moments, triggering Luna’s repressed memory of her dead mother’s obsession with Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin’s legendary guitar wizard. Desperate to learn the truth about her mother’s suicide, to tease fact from family lore in order to weave her own personal narrative, Luna embarks on a pilgrimage from her family’s farm in the pines of eastern North Carolina to England, to search for the man whose music her mother held sacred, Jimmy Page.

My Review

I was given a digital arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Christy Alexander Hallberg and Livingston Press. This book will be published on October 20th 2021.

Set in Full River, North Carolina in the 1980s, Searching for Jimmy Page is the coming of age story of troubled teenager, Luna.

Luna’s mother, Claudia, committed suicide when Luna was still a child and Luna’s main memories of her revolve around a love of lavender incense and Led Zeppelin. She was convinced Jimmy Page was hiding messages to her in amongst the lyrics.

The author does a fantastic job of setting the scene and time in which Luna’s story takes place, weaving in mentions of Led Zeppelin songs and albums, tarot cards, magic mushrooms, tie dyed clothing, Formica tables and beanbag chairs to help you easily visualise the world she describes.

The other townspeople of Full River are religious and shocked by the fact Claudia committed the unforgivable sin of suicide. Luna has carried this societal prejudice towards her and her family alongside her bottled up grief, cutting herself and trying to cope with her feelings as best she can, eventually throwing herself into writing, which her mother had always said she was good at.

Luna discovers that Claudia attended a Led Zeppelin concert right around the time Luna was conceived and her friend Connie suggests that maybe Jimmy Page is Luna’s mystery father and that is why Claudia was so obsessed with him. Connie even thinks there is a resemblance. Luna has many questions she would like answered and embarks on a journey to London to find out the truth. She is dogged in her determination for answers and her need for closure. Through this experience she finds herself a family but it may not be quite what she was expecting.

Hallberg’s conversations between the teenage friends and between Luna and her grandmother and mother are believably realistic. Her lyrical prose is well-suited to her scene-building descriptive passages:

The Full River Greyhound station is like every other small town bus station in America: cheap linoleum floors with scuff marks and gravel residue that crunches underfoot; crinkled potato chip bags stashed like footnotes under metal chairs, wads of gum stuck to the bottoms; dingy white walls, reminders of the days when travelers chain-smoked over Styrofoam cups of stale coffee while they waited for a bus to Anywhere But Here, the smell of Camels and Winstons lingering in the building’s brittle bones.

Sometimes, however, I felt that the turn of phrase was too sophisticated for a teenager, albeit a budding writer who loves to read:

I felt like an apostate come back to the fold, except the only divine inspiration I garnered derived from grandeur, not God—the ornate stained glass windows, coruscating in the feeble lamplight; the elegiac beauty of sepulchral chambers of kings and queens; Gothic arches, swooping upward like hands in prayer; Chaucer’s tomb and the stone slabs lodged in the floor of the Poets’ Corner memorializing writers I revered, and the sense of trepidation I felt at treading over them.

I highly recommend this moving story to lovers of coming of age stories, troubled teens finding themselves despite complicated family situations, fans of Led Zeppelin music and ‘80s nostalgia.

Readers should be prepared for the following themes: suicide, teenage self-harm, cancer.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | goodreads

About the Author

Christy Alexander Hallberg is the author of the novel Searching for Jimmy Page, forthcoming October 2021 from Livingston Press. She is a Teaching Professor of English at East Carolina University, where she earned her BS and MA in English. She received her MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Goddard College. She is Senior Associate Editor of North Carolina Literary Review and a former editor of #FridayFlash at Litro USA. Her short fiction, creative nonfiction, book reviews, and interviews have appeared in such journals as North Carolina Literary Review, The Main Street Rag, Fiction Southeast, Riggwelter, Deep South Magazine, Eclectica, Litro magazine, STORGY Magazine, Entropy, storySouth, Still: The Journal, and Concho River Review. Her flash story “Aperture” was chosen Story of the Month by Fiction Southeast for October 2020. The editors of the Best Small Fictions anthology series chose it for inclusion in their 2021 issue.

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From the Author

Family has played an integral role in my passion for Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page, and in the evolution of this novel our family lore looms large. Protagonist Luna Kane’s great-grandfather is named after and inspired by my maternal great-grandfather, Jesse Baker, who died in 1946, long before I was born. I know him only as an enigmatic family legend, this man my grandmother told me took a mail order course on faith healing because he believed he could cure his wife, my great-grandmother Emily, of breast cancer. That story has stayed with me and crept into my own stories, especially Searching For Jimmy Page, the novel that is the culmination of a life steeped in the music, myth, and magic of Led Zeppelin, a fascination that began when I was a teenager in the mid-1980s, with a fortuitous viewing of the band’s concert film, The Song Remains the Same, on MTV with my mother and older brother Steve, who was a huge fan of the band. It is the story I was always meant to tell.

Christy Alexander Hallberg

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One thought on “ARC Review: Searching for Jimmy Page by Christy Alexander Hallberg

  1. Pingback: Searching for Jimmy Page by Christy Hallberg | Sue's Musings

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