Page after page in Night Radio: A Love Story author David Berner demands our attention through his remarkable talent for story-telling. In a style that is fiercely honest and stirring, he catapults us into a world filled with places and people whom we recognize, care about, and identify with instantly. Each one is crafted lovingly, exposing and exploring the human condition along with personal conflicts and choices that shape their lives.
Against the backdrop of the 1970s–the Vietnam war, its effect on young people who became part of the “tormented counter-culture”–its music, its drugs, and the uncertainty of a world that many were experimenting with how best to navigate, protagonist Jake Mulholland enters our heart from page one and remains there throughout this extraordinarily well-crafted novel.
One universal theme after another fills the pages of Jake’s life story. Starting on the first page, questioning how he could separate from his father and have his own identity, he cultivates his speech so as not to sound like his dad. From there he moves directly to fulfill his dream of having a life in radio. By his own admission, he was “in love” with radio. It was a passion and in a booth for the first time it became his entire life and his addiction.
As with any addiction, it clouded his thinking and influenced his choices, choices that we wish we could reach out magically and stop him from making. Choices such as moving ahead without Sarah, his college sweetheart and not telling her why nor responding to her letters, just leaving and never turning back. Addicted to his dreams and later to drugs, we see him lose sight of what other possibilities were in front of him. Choices that he didn’t allow himself to consider as options that he could have made without sacrificing himself or hurting others.
Berner writes that in those years, “happy was an emotion Jake wasn’t sure what to do with. Sure there were times Jake was happy, he guessed, but he wasn’t sure what happy was supposed to be, what it was to look like or exactly how he was to feel.”
In later years when he attempts to accept himself and find life’s deeper meaning, one that had eluded him for far too long, he admits that he saw radio as his “platform.” A therapist tells him she sees it as his “crutch.” I see them as both a platform and a crutch!
In the end, he decides to take the risk of devoting his New Year’s Eve program to making amends to all whom he lost and hurt. His assistant locates each of them, implores and prepares them to be guests on his program. On the air he admits: “I have been hiding, avoiding all of this for years. I got lost in my work, lost in fame, disappearing from a relationship that may have been one of the best things in my life. I drank, did drugs . . . ” and Berner concludes by saying “it was then that he began to accept the infinite nature of things, acknowledging with certainty that there is incompleteness, that it’s an unfinished world. Nothing wholly goes away, dissolves or disappears. Pieces of everything remain in the ashes. Even in death, the soul endures.”
Jake shares with the audience, “how the bigger story here, although a long time in coming, was in many ways unfolding before everyone, on the radio, in a surreal yet strangely appropriate account of love, mistakes, and some measures of forgiveness.”
In a recent interview with memoirist Madeline Sharples, Berner referred to a quote attributed to Anton Chekov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me a glint of light on broken glass.” A perfect analogy for what Berner has succeeded in accomplishing in this very memorable novel. Bravo!
About the Author:
David W. Berner is the award-winning author of three memoirs: Accidental Lessons, Any Road Will Take You There, and There’s A Hamster In The Dashboard. Night Radio: A Love Story is his first novel. Windy City Reviews calls Night Radio a “unique and valuable dimension to today’s literary fiction by combining a gripping plot with a deep character study and a haunting, thought-provoking narrative.”
David works as a radio reporter and news anchor for CBS Radio and teaches writing and radio documentary at Columbia College Chicago. His book Accidental Lessons won the Golden Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature and has been called a “beautiful, elegantly written book” by award-winning author Thomas E. Kennedy. Any Road Will Take You There—a 2013 Book of the Year from the Chicago Writers Association—is the author’s story of a cross-country road trip with his sons and the revelations of fatherhood. The memoir has been called “heartwarming and heartbreaking” and “a five-star wonderful read.” There’s A Hamster In The Dashboard, a collection of essays, was named one of the “Best Books of 2015” by Chicago Book Review.
Synopsis– Night Radio: A Love Story
From the award-winning author of Any Road Will Take You There and Accidental Lessons comes a truly American story.
Jake Mulholland dreams of becoming the next great rock ‘n’ roll radio personality. But like his father, his appetite for love conflicts with his thirst for success, leading to an unforgivable mistake. Jake finds fame but also the excess of celebrity, and just as he begins to rediscover his authentic self, he’s shaken by the news of a life-altering secret. In an effort for redemption, Jake plans a special New Year’s Eve broadcast that will be the biggest challenge of his life.
Night Radio is a love letter to music and rock ‘n’ roll radio of the 1970s, the story of an American boy, an American family, and of dreams just out of our reach.
“Night Radio adds a unique and valuable dimension to today’s literary fiction by combining a gripping plot with a deep character study and a haunting, thought-provoking narrative.”—Renee James, Windy City Reviews
Paperback: 351 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Cawing Crow Press (May 25, 2016)