Midnight Hour Encores
by Bruce Brooks. Novel. pages. Grades 6 -8.
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Sib (Sibilance T. Spooner) has been living with her father whom she calls Taxi since her mother walked out shortly after her birth at which time she was christened Esalen Starness Blue. Now, at sixteen, Sibilance has become a superb cellist and has asked Taxi to take her to see her mother for the first time. On the long car trip, Sib learns a great deal about her father and herself and a little about her mother. On their way, Sib gets to meet people who knew her father and mother back in the sixties. She plays original music on her cello which represents her father and herself. It isn't until they arrive in California that she tells him her reason for coming to California: she will audition for a music scholarship there and, if she gets it, they will be parted. The role of music in their lives is a strong one and we get a glimpse of the true musician's feeling for her instrument.
When they arrive in San Francisco, they find Sib's mother a surprise for both of them. No longer the irresponsible hippie that Taxi knew and loved, Connie has become a very successful business woman. She accepts Sib graciously but perhaps not too lovingly. When we hear Sib's decision about whether to stay with her mother or return with her father, we are ready for it. The question is whether or not her parents are.
More than anything else, this book seems to be about the need for closure. Sib needs to understand her mother in order to understand her father and herself. At one point she says, "Taxi stands behind me so quietly I don't even know he's there." What she means becomes evident as their journey takes place.
It's easy to blame Connie for deserting her baby and Sib certainly feels that way. The skill of Brooks' is such that we can understand and are ready for Sib's acceptance of the fact and even understanding of her mother's need at the time to do so.
Time is also a focus of the book, particularly the time of the sixties. The drugs, the self-indulgence and the irresponsibility of that time are often dealt with and this book surely doesn't slight them, but the idealism of the time is often ignored and it is Taxi who tells us about their worth. The book could lead to a whole sixties research project in which the music, the drug culture, the communes and the violence are all examined by today's students.
This is a book where the author's voice is sometimes obvious in Taxi and as such, it makes a good place to start a discussion about similar voices in other books.