Midi Berry’s newly published Nights of the Road examines the mystical power of feminine devotion. The nominal protagonist of the tale is Sarah, a British refugee from bad relationship mojo, taking up a life as a psychotherapist in Los Angeles. The power driving her spiritual awakening, however, arises from the 17th century, where her ancestor Frances Coke earns the regard of those surrounding the Stewart court as its excesses succumb to Parliamentary discipline.
When I was a child, my father declaimed modern music by observing that it was the discipline of classical forms that allowed composers to create pieces that challenged listeners without alienating them. This seems a suitable metaphor for the structure of Midi’s work.
In both time streams, Berry injects the theme of a woman committed to a natural love with a devoted partner, but challenged in her course by the passionate attentions of an unstable and possessive creative genius. In the Stewart Court, Frances is frustrated in her love by an arranged marriage, albeit to a man who – as long as the forms of the relationship are honored – kindly accepts her devotion to another. In modern Los Angeles, Sarah escapes a political marriage through emigration, and falls captive to the reborn creative genius whose attentions were frustrated by social strictures in the Stewart Court.
The novel evolves through a series of tetes-a-tetes between the romantic interests. Sarah employs the language of modern psychology as a shield against strong emotions, eventually drawing her two competitors – both previously members of a band called Nights of the Road (whence the title, in part) – into collaborative reconciliation. As for Frances, I found myself thinking that her attitudes were entirely too modern, but then realized that so were the attitudes of Beethoven and Brahms. Frances makes a decision early on in the book to believe in herself, and thus speaks her mind honestly throughout, and so perhaps reveals wisdom of the feminine heart that has been long suppressed.
I found myself at times wishing that Berry would bring us into some of the historical experiences discussed by Frances and her lover Robert. However, the emphasis of the book is on transformation of relationships, and there is a lot of valuable relationship modeling in the story line.
The most significant flaw in the story – and this is nit-picking – may be the lack of forecasting of Frances’s mystical ascension as her death nears. For those familiar with such events, this is foreshadowed by the affirmation by a noble protector that Frances’s beauty, compassion and devotion have brought her unsuspected admiration from the royal entourage. Unfortunately, for some the connection may be lost, and so her wandering down the psychic road as she nears death (whence again the title) may seem a little jarring, if not deus ex machina.
But the book’s final chapter is golden. Antony, the creative genius of Nights of the Road, manipulates masterfully Sarah’s emotions, and precious are the lyrics sung as reflections upon her impact on the men that love her.
Berry’s heart-felt tribute to reconciliation and redemption casts light on the challenges of being a muse, and presents wisdom that readers will usefully apply when seeking to understand and deepen their relationships. As the Brits would say: “Give it a go!”