When your beloved father dies, how do you recover? Nine-year-old Samantha feels alone in the world. Her mother and grandmother would like to help her, but Samantha is conflicted on whether she can trust them. Then she meets Elaine Desmond, a mysterious, glamorous teacher, and Samantha discovers the wonders of music and the magic of the piano. Is this the way to heal her heart?
About the Author
Wendy Ledger grew up reading. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University with a double degree in French and English, although she would claim that she really majored in free-form music at WMFO, the college radio station. She has a master's degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University and also taught introductory creative writing there. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, the East Bay Express, and Music for the Love of It. She lives in Northern California and currently leads a writing group at Mountain Spirit in Felton, California.
The portrait of the young girl at the heart of this book is marvelous, sensitive, and pitch-perfect. Samantha is still reeling from the loss of her father and trying to find some love in her relationship with her mother when she comes under the spell of a charismatic and ultimately manipulative musician who recognizes Samantha's budding talent and uses it to try to mold the girl into someone she is not. The book effortlessly moves in and out of Samantha's head as she changes, as her perceptions of her world and herself are shaped by the musician who has begun to teach her piano. If none of this sounds emotional, it's my fault because there were times when I was reading that I actually dreaded what might be in store for Samantha. This is Ledger's first novel, and it's a remarkable beginning.
-- Timothy Hallinan, Author of the Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty novels
As a professional pianist who considers herself a "slow starter," I highly enjoyed Wendy Ledger's first published novel--Wendy gets deeply and sensitively into the making, studying and creating of music. However, I think that any young person (or adult) who tended to too easily get crushes on role models and who tended to give away too much of their personal power to people they admire might enjoy this book. And, especially given so much tumult in the world, the message of returning joy is a powerful one.
-- Jacqueline Schwab, Improvisational Pianist Heard on Ken Burns’s Documentaries and More
Joy Returns introduces us to nine-year-old Samantha, a shy child with few friends except her loving father. When her father dies suddenly, Samantha feels his loss deeply, as she tries to navigate her world without a strong adult as her guide. She discovers joy in music and explores this outlet with passion as she learns to play the piano. Samantha’s gift takes her to unknown territory, introducing her to new places and people. Eventually she finds her way when she shows the courage to stand up for herself.
This lovely first novel by Wendy Ledger depicts love, loss, grief, healing, and resilience of a child. As one who lost both parents early in life, I highly recommend this heartwarming tale to tweens, teens, and adults.
-- Libby Atwater, Author of The Spirit of Villarosa