Curtis Lawson’s Black Heart Boys’ Choir is an intense, conflicting read. It takes you through a young man’s descent into darkness as he single-mindedly pursues the goal of creating a final musical act of, to his mind, beauty.
Black Heart Boys’ Choir is a story centering around Lucien, a classical music afficionado in a small, stifling Massachusetts town from a highly broken, once influential family. His standards of quality, in both art and personal interactions, are constantly tested by the other kids in his high school who he feels seek to mock him for his taste in wearing suits. That, and his obvious desire to have nothing to do with him.
One day, Lucien finds a musical composition entitled “Madrigal of the World’s End”, written by his father who had committed suicide when he was young. He discovers that his mother had gone through and blacked out the lines of the composition, rendering the piece a practical waste. Lucien had grown more hostile and distant from his mother after his father’s death, and this act of defilement drives the wedge deeper.
The rest of the story revolves around Lucien’s obsession with rediscovering the Madrigal of the World’s End that it may be performed for a world that does not deserve its beauty. He is spurned on by a dark muse, one that he seeks out and violently denies at random intervals, to actions that are more and more deplorable but necessary to the justification to the ends.
Lawson does a beautiful job of pacing Lucien’s journey into a very dark place and the people who help and hinder him in the process. Lucien starts a rebel boys’ choir to perform classical music that is his heart, and to spit in the face of the high school’s glee club which he feels is nothing more than the churning out of dreck. The lives of those in his choir dovetail in and deviate away from his goal to write the Madrigal, always to extreme degrees. By the end of the story, you have a good idea about who each person is and why they’re there.
The end of the story is really the thing; by the time you read the final sentence, it may occur to you that something else had been happening the entire time you read the story. It’s up to you to decide which story is the one you read, and which one was more horrible and sadder. It’s well worth it.
Black Heart Boys’ Choir releases September 8th and is available for pre-order through Amazon.