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Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell
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Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm

The powerful, emotional novel about the temptations of dangerous love
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Narrator Nicole Lewis

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Length 13 hours 8 minutes
Language English
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Brought to you by Penguin.

Love is messy. Love can make us feel alive. It can also bring us down. Sometimes we look for it in all the wrong places. This is a novel about longing, desire and dreams; about passion and risk and all the places in between.

Maggie is pregnant with Circus Palmer's child. This may be her last chance, but she craves her freedom.

Pia is Circus's ex-wife, still in love with the fantasy of the man who conjured jazz tunes for her into the night, but who left many years before.

Koko, Circus's daughter, is lost in the maelstrom of teenage years, the confusion of awakening desire and yearning for the father she barely knows.

Peach is a barmaid who just wants someone to see the person she is inside.

Odessa is on the run from a mistake that can't be undone.

And then there's Circus, Circus Palmer, a jazz trumpeter whose moment of glory is fading. Selfish, damaged, scared, perhaps the only person Circus is fooling is himself.

Delivered in a lush orchestration of diverse female voices, Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm is a provocative and gripping novel about the desire to be loved, and the need to belong.

*****

'An exceptional debut...This story is an example of how love, in all of its polyrhythms, can sometimes sound like song, and other times like noise. And this book is an example of how a great story can become a bass drum, kicking and thumping in your belly far after it's over. A modern masterpiece.' Jason Reynolds, author of Look Both Ways

'Soulful... Elegant, unexpected and wrenching as the "fierce" sounds that emerge from Circus's trumpet . . . Unforgettable' New York Times Book Review

'[An] emerging literary superstar . . . This sensual and sensuous debut is a kaleidoscopic character study, a polyphonic riff on the modern-day Casanova from the perspectives of the myriad women in his wake' Oprah Daily

'A sultry and subversive debut. Laura Warrell's prose sparkles, but it's what she's got to say about sex and love and being a woman that will take your breath away. This book is a love song, and Warrell knows how to hold all the right notes.' Rachel Beanland, author of Florence Adler Swims Forever

'Jazz music is to be played sweet, soft, plenty rhythm,' proclaimed Jelly Roll Morton, and Warrell plays her exceptional first novel with plenty of rhythm and tenderness, delivered in brisk, mordantly gorgeous language' Library Journal

'A book about desire and about love, about where these emotions meet and part and sometimes interlace in inescapable ways...a classic in the making.' Brian Castleberry, author of Nine Shiny Objects

©2023 Laura Warrell (P)2023 Penguin Audio

Laura Warrell is a graduate of the creative writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her writing has been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Huffington Post, The Rumpus, The Writer, Racialicious, Post Road Magazine, and the Boston Globe. She has taught creative writing and literature at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and through the Emerging Voices program at PEN America in Los Angeles, where she now lives.

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Reviews

Set to be one of 2023's biggest books with plaudits from Celeste Ng and Oprah, this multi-narrative story is all about the power of being a woman, destructive love and hopeful endurance. Laura Warrell makes a striking debut with the musical Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm, weaving together women's voices like a jam session . . . Warrell's sentences are sinuous, her characters fully formed, as they perform a dance of seduction and rebuttal, pursuit and withdrawal, yearning and regret. Using an elegant structure with echoes of Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other, she weaves a lushly textured tale of real emotional depth, conjuring a world of voices moving in concert. Soulful . . . Structured like a jam session, the novel favors a series of riffs over any one melodic theme. Warrell gives a supporting cast of women their own solos, through close-third-person chapters that detail their entanglements with the elusive Circus . . . Elegant, unexpected and wrenching as the "fierce" sounds that emerge from Circus's trumpet . . . Unforgettable. [An] emerging literary superstar . . . Warrell writes a mean bad boy! This sensual and sensuous debut is a kaleidoscopic character study, a polyphonic riff on the modern-day Casanova from the perspectives of the myriad women in his wake. Both visceral and finely observed, the novel captures social nuance and emotional wreckage with precision and compassion. Told in a rich array of voices, this gorgeously written debut explores the myriad syncopations of love and desire. Laura Warrell writes with an enormous understanding of human nature, a boundless sympathy for life's complications, and a keen eye for life's unexpected joys. Expand reviews
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