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The Universe Playing Strings: A Novel

R. M. Kinder

Music is the heartbeat of this novel about the world of hometown musicians—the jamming venues, the contests, the onstage cues, the subtle rules. The story focuses on four musicians: Carl Bradshaw, an aging Oklahoma fiddler; Amy Chandler, a young dumpling who can outpick most guitarists; Jack Martin, who lives in the shadow of a successful father; and Cora, an older woman on the edge of a world she believes can’t be hers. The novel’s structure reflects the sets of a performance on stage, with smaller sections that serve to introduce the musicians. Song titles, phrases, and sounds are part of the language, as are the characters’ styles in speaking about music, creating it, and performing it. With its winning evocation of the joy of playing together, The Universe Playing Strings will remind readers of the movies Once and Crazy Heart.


R. M. Kinder is the author of a novel, An Absolute Gentleman, and two books of short fiction, A Near-Perfect Gift and Sweet Angel Band and Other Stories, as well as a coauthor of a dual-media biography, Old-Time Fiddling: Hal Sappington, Missouri Fiddler. She is a professor emerita of English at the University of Central Missouri and an editor emerita of the literary journal Pleiades and Pleiades Press.


“A taut little novel about a group of musicians looking for love in all the wrong places.”


Denver Post

“Kinder’s book reads as cleanly as Vince Gill plays guitar and would be a welcome addition to reading lists, not only for music lovers, but for all those fascinated by the diverse roles people play in life’s symphony.”


Daily Star-Journal

“A lovely composition, The Universe Playing Strings sings the universal song of human longing for connection. The undertone of a wordless answer to loneliness and doubt runs beneath its lines of elegantly crafted prose.”


Foreword Reviews

5.5 x 8.5 in. 240 pages