Live from Medicine Park

Written by Constance Squires⎮ Narrated by Tom Burka

Author: Constance Squires
Narrator: Tom Burka
Length: 8 hours and 24 minutes
Publisher: Constance E. Squires
Released: Mar. 17, 2020
Genre: Fiction

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Synopsis

Documentary filmmaker Ray Wheeler is down on his luck. Embroiled in a lawsuit, he is reeling from the consequences of a near-fatal shooting on his last film and has just lost his teaching gig. Broke and beleaguered, he can’t afford to be particular about his next project. So, when a former student invites him to film the comeback of Lena Wells, an iconic rock-and-roll singer who hit it big in the '70s, more than two decades earlier, he reluctantly agrees, even though he doesn’t like her music.

When Ray arrives at Lena’s hometown of Medicine Park, Oklahoma, a defunct resort community, he is determined to approach his topic with the professional detachment that has guided his career. His work ethic is modeled on the prime directive of Star Trek: Never interfere with an alien civilization. But with only five days left before Lena’s comeback concert, Ray quickly runs afoul of his subject, who places him on a one-week probation. The terms: impress her or else...

It doesn’t take long before Ray violates his own ethical standards. Drawn romantically toward Lena, he also fails to prevent himself from interfering with the lives of the people closest to her, including her only son Gram, whose paternity is a mystery even to himself, her daughter-in-law Jettie, and the enigmatic guitar player Cyril Dodge.

When disaster strikes Ray’s set again, this time in Medicine Park, he must face truths he has avoided for too long about love, relationships, and responsibility.

Live from Medicine Park is a bittersweet reflection on the search for identity and purpose amid tragedy. As the novel reaches its climax, Ray sets out on one last adventure to set things right. Redemption may be possible, but only on its own terms.

Jess's Review

4.25 Stars

This audiobook was provided by its author, Constance Squires, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Thanks, Constance!

Live from Medicine Park is a "Rockumentary". Our protagonist, Ray, is a 'down on his luck' filmmaker following a 1970s rock legend as she attempts to make a comeback. The achingly realistic tone of  Live from Medicine Park immediately struck me. This is a documentary I would actually watch. I've always adored VH1's Behind-the-Music specials and Live from Medicine Park Gives an even further in-depth look into the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, albeit as a fictional account.

The style in which this is written reminds me of Tara Reid Jenkins' (Daisy Jones and the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo). It felt so real that I actually had to Google Lena Wells! The overwhelming sense of realism would make Live from Medicine Park the perfect introduction into fiction for nonfiction listeners.

The intensity and edginess of 'life on the road' is juxtaposed with the fall out and the decades 0f relative anonymity that followed. We are rather removed from it all, since Ray (the filmmaker) is our window into this life. It took Ray some time to grow on me. He was clearly a fish out of water on the Rock scene and Squires did a fine job of showcasing his growth as a character. His was a story of redemption and that path certainly wasn't easy for him. I really wanted to like him, but he made it a little hard sometimes. As the story progresses and we come to understand Ray's way of thinking a little more, he becomes a more sympathetic figure.

Ray may have been our entry point to the story, but Lena was the star. I've always been a sucker for a strong female lead and Lena was a total badass! She's got this 'been there, done that, and got the T-shirt' attitude that I found completely endearing. I knew I liked her character when she immediately put Ray on notice, giving him a week to impress her or the documentary was off. Yes, she is jaded, but I feel like a former rockstar sort of has to be. She has literally been everywhere and done everything. I know Lena isn't a real figure, but I swear, she felt so real to me that I can practically see her in my mind. She's part Stevie Nicks, part Grace Slick. Music is her passion and that comes across loud and clear, but she doesn't care for the politicking of the music industry. I found that completely believable.

I recommend Live from Medicine Park to anyone who has ever seen "Where Are They Now?" and wanted to know more. I also think this would be a perfect fit for anyone who enjoyed Daisy Jones and the Six.

Narration review: Tom Burka can count me as a fan! His performance thoroughly impressed me, particularly because of his range of character distinction. He has this really rich baritone voice. I was worried that he wouldn't have the range to provide the necessary vocalizations for a number of characters, but I'm so glad I was wrong. We hear from a lot of different characters, each providing various insights into Lena's past, personally and professionally. Burka's character distinctions were all handled flawlessly. I was never in doubt of who was speaking.

I especially enjoyed his Oklahoman accent for Lena. I'm not sure that I could otherwise identify an Oklahoman accent, but the slight twang and flattened vowels he used to voice Lena certainly did the job.

Meet the Author: Constance Squires

Constance Squires lives on an acre at the northern edge of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, with her husband, daughter, two dogs, four cats,  a lizard, and too many books.

Squires holds a Ph.D. in English from Oklahoma State University and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. In addition to Hit Your Brights, she is the author of the novels Along the Watchtower (Riverhead), which won the 2012 Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction, and Live from Medicine Park, a 2018 Oklahoma Book Award finalist. Her short stories have appeared in Guernica, The Atlantic Monthly, Shenandoah, Identity Theory, Bayou, the Dublin Quarterly, This Land, and a number of other magazines.

Her nonfiction has appeared in Salon, the New York Times, the Village Voice, World Literature Today, the Philological Review, Largehearted Boy, and has been featured on the NPR program Snap Judgment.  She is a regular contributor to the RollingStone500: Telling Stories in Stereo (thers500.com). and wrote the screenplay for Sundance fellow Jeffrey Palmer's 2015 short film, Grave Misgivings.

She is currently at work on a novel, Low April Sun.

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