A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie- Feature and Review


The year is 1969, and the Bayleen Island Folk Fest is abuzz with one name: Jesse Reid. Tall and soft-spoken, with eyes blue as stone-washed denim, Jesse Reid's intricate guitar riffs and supple baritone are poised to tip from fame to legend with this one headlining performance. That is, until his motorcycle crashes on the way to the show.

Jane Quinn is a Bayleen Island local whose music flows as naturally as her long blond hair. When she and her bandmates are asked to play in Jesse Reid's place at the festival, it almost doesn't seem real. But Jane plants her bare feet on the Main Stage and delivers the performance of a lifetime, stopping Jesse's disappointed fans in their tracks: A star is born.

Jesse stays on the island to recover from his near-fatal accident and he strikes up a friendship with Jane, coaching her through the production of her first record. As Jane contends with the music industry's sexism, Jesse becomes her advocate, and what starts as a shared calling soon becomes a passionate love affair. On tour with Jesse, Jane is so captivated by the giant stadiums, the late nights, the wild parties, and the media attention, that she is blind-sided when she stumbles on the dark secret beneath Jesse's music. With nowhere to turn, Jane must reckon with the shadows of her own past; what follows is the birth of one of most iconic albums of all time.

Shot through with the lyrics, the icons, the lore, the adrenaline of the early 70s music scene, Songs in Ursa Major pulses with romantic longing and asks the question so many female artists must face: What are we willing to sacrifice for our dreams?



Songs in Ursa MajorSongs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie is a 2021 Knopf Publishing Group publication.

It was the summer of ’69…

That’s the whole story right there.

Off the coast of Massachusetts, on a remote island, the Folk scene is creating a buzz. Jesse Reid, a good looking and wildly popular singer is slated to appear at the big music festival on the island, but is injured in an accident shortly before he was set to take the stage.

Shoved into Jesse’s spot, local musician, Jane Quinn, faces a restless and angry crowd. Despite the rocky start, she not only survived the night, but managed to get herself noticed in the process.

While Jesse is recovering on the island, he and Jane become close, and Jane’s band ‘The Breakers’ are even tapped to open for Jesse’s upcoming tour- although Jane wants to keep her relationship with Jesse on the down-low so she'll be judged by her own merits.

It’s a heady time- but things don’t work out as well as Jane hoped, which turns out to be a catalyst for her creative juices, prompting her to write her breakthrough masterpiece- Songs in Ursa Major.

This is a quick read, somewhat based on the real- life affair between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. It’s also an expose on the double standards in the music industry that Jane had to cope with.

This story feels nostalgic and occasionally melancholy, but it is also a story of tenacity and triumph, and a profile in the conflict of success and fame.

A solid debut!



EMMA BRODIE has worked in book publishing for a decade, most recently as an executive editor at Little, Brown's Voracious imprint. She graduated from the Johns Hopkins University's Writing Seminars program, and is a longtime contributor to HuffPost and a faculty member at Catapult. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their dog, Freddie Mercury.

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