Let it Be by Chad Gayle is a poignant family drama set in the 1970s. The novel is framed by the Beatles’ “Let it Be” album, with each chapter named for a song on the record. As a Beatles fan who has also incorporated the Fab Four into my work, I found this to be very pleasing as well as effective. However, one does not need to be familiar with the Beatles to appreciate, understand and enjoy the novel.
The quote from protagonist Michelle (ma belle…) sums up the importance of the album in her life: “There is one album that would be perfect, an album that would help me get through tonight: my one and only Beatles record, the one he took away from me. Paul and John, Ringo and George, could sing me to sleep, right here on the sofa.”
The novel is about a young woman Michelle, the mother of Pam and Joseph, who leaves her abusive husband to restart a life for herself and her children in a dry, dusty, flat area near Amarillo, Texas, in the 1970s. Young Joseph has a hard time adjusting, and his sister Pam’s introduction sets the ground work so the reader knows all of this tension will lead to something tragic.
The writer does an exceptional job of putting the reader in the time period with pop culture references to “The Love Boat,” “Little House on the Prairie,” a plastic frog as a toothbrush holder, and turntable record players. It was a time when boys spent their summer days riding their bikes aimlessly and happening on ball games to participate in. Joseph’s favorite place is the library; a highly intelligent child, he is fascinated with space exploration and imagines traveling “across the universe.”
The novel is a very realistic look at a woman’s struggle as she starts life over with her kids. The ordinary things are interesting because we are vested in the characters: Running home at lunch from her job to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her kids, treating them to McDonald’s one night, taking them swimming at their uncle’s condo complex swimming pool.
The drama heightens when Michelle carves out time for herself and begins a passionate relationship with the sales manager of the company she works for. She experiences so many emotions: glee over falling in love, guilt over spending time away from her children, especially resentful Joseph, desire to just think in the moment.
It’s definitely the kind of novel I find myself thinking about often after reading it. I highly recommend it.