2016 Top Pick: Every ANxious Wave by Mo Daviau
Review by: Mark Palm
A Dance to The Music of Time...
Most people, in their teen years find themselves in adoring relationships with one or more bands or musicians. They hang posters on their walls and the songs become backdrops to their lives. I remember the first time I heard the London Calling album by The Clash I was so exhilarated that I actually kicked and broke one of my family’s chairs. There was no way that I could have explained what had actually happened so I came up with some lame excuse. Often the musicians are famous, but I believe that the most passionate attachments are formed between fans and smaller, obscure bands. It’s easy to go to an arena and buy high-end merchandise, but it takes a certain kind of crazed love to experience a musical epiphany in a low-ceilinged rattle trap club with lousy sound and people bumping into you on a crowded dance floor. I have had my share of those moments and I can remember them clearly to this day, and that feeling, so memorable yet almost impossible to describe lies at the heart of Every Anxious Wave, an exhilarating novel by Mo Daviau.
Karl Bender is a thirtysomething owner of The Dictator’s Club, a down at the heels bar with an excellent jukebox, the exact kind of place he once played in when he was the guitarist for a band called The Axis. Kind of adrift, one day Karl discovers a time-traveling wormhole in his closet. Along with his dysfunctional computer-geek friend Wayne he starts a side business surreptitiously sending people back in time to listen to their favorite bands play live. Then Karl accidentally sends Wayne back to New York in 980 instead of 1980. Unable to bring Wayne back Karl searches for someone qualified to help, and finds Lena Geduldig, a brilliant but underappreciated Astrophysicist who happens to be a Rock Chick and a fan of Karl’s former band. After convincing her to help him the two become close, but while Karl falls in love, Lena, who has a tragic past and is fearful of commitment, begins to start travelling to the past to try and change the circumstances of her life, perhaps changing the present and the future, for her and Karl and all of the world.
I talk a lot in my reviews about keeping spoilers hidden, and in this book it is very important. Every Anxious Wave has a plot full of twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat, and I don’t want to deprive the reader of any of the curves that Ms. Daviau throws. I was paying attention the whole way, but there are some subtle touches that made me go back and re-read, which is a sign of some serious plotting skills.
As well-constructed as the story is, it pales compared with the emotional power that drives this novel. Karl and Lena are living, breathing characters and their story is funny and sad and joyous and heart-breaking. Other characters, whom I have not even mentioned and play important roles are just as well drawn. Some people might say that the science of the time travel is weak, but in a story that is so poignant and touching it was not a problem. The relationship of Karl and Lena, as it evolves through various iterations of time and time travel, is the core of a story about acceptance and sacrifice and love that makes Every Anxious Wave an absolutely wonderful novel. Now if only I could sit down and talk to Ms. Daviau about music!