Bernard, a deaf young woodworker, is drawn into an old growth forest in rural Québec by mysterious and compelling music. Summoned there by the spirits of his Iroquois and European great-grandparents, he witnesses a colossal 800-year old cedar fall literally at his feet, and nearly loses his life salvaging a portion of the great tree to craft an instrument worthy of the music he hears. His creation of two exquisite classical guitars imbued with the spirits of his ancestors sets in motion an intricate yet intimate story of turbulent times and tumultuous family relationships. Reaching across two centuries and four continents - from a convent in the French Alps to the jungles of Southeast Asia to an opera house in Sydney - Strum is a sweeping tale told against a backdrop of forbidden but enduring love, blind faith, war, and the legacy of six generations of a mixed-race family torn by tragedy but bonded by a music destined to reunite them.
“Young’s debut novel delights the reader in a mesmerizing story you can’t stop reading. Definitely a page turner!”
~Francisco Vargas, American Library Association.
The melody had come to him in a dream. It was a haunting sound, refined and vaguely familiar, and it came through the absolute silence of an old-growth cedar forest not yet ravaged by the steel saws. Something in this music drew him out of his body and invited him to a sacred dance, the vision of the forest still vivid in his floating body. Although he was wandering in search of something he did not know, he felt a new sense of peace and purpose, not unlike a thirsty land quenched at last by a replenishing rain.
At the first light, with the dream more real than any event in his recent memory, Bernard closed the doors of his cabin and set out in the direction of the dawn. The music had come to the young man in his sleep, breaking the silence of his waking hours, which had been silent since he was five years old. But now, following the surge of the music in his inner ear, he walked purposefully beyond the lake and surrounding autumn landscape of his home like a scout embarking on his first tribal hunt. His feet paced out the rhythm of the music for eleven hours, yet he felt no tiredness, his sense of purpose still strong.
He reached La Pérègrine Creek taking the old loggers’ road to where it met the Salmon River at the base of Mont-Mégantic, following its meandering and keeping just within sight of the undulating terrain of clear cutting. The area around Solpetrière was first settled by French fur-traders in the early seventeenth century near the junction of the creek and the river, and much later became a lumber town. By the time he found his way to this settlement, however, it had become a ghost town, abandoned for more than three decades. A scandal involving a priest, it was rumored, had sent the town into a downward spiral that decimated the once thriving timber camp. Whole families retreated from Solpetrière to other nearby towns, a few settled new camps downriver, and others packed up to move southward to New England, or back to Europe, until the sawmill eventually shut down for lack of willing workers.
Nancy Young‘s writing brings to life her global travel and multicultural perspective. Born in Taipei and raised in Pasadena, California, she studied literature, international studies and film at UC Berkeley, Columbia, Hawaii and Melbourne University. She has traveled to over 30 countries, and lived for over a decade in Australia, where her short story in the anthology Sweet Sisters and Other Stories was published. She now lives in Los Angeles.