Ever Rest by Roz Morris

I recently had the chance to read an advance copy of Roz Morris’s Ever Rest. What first attracted me to it was the fact that it was about musicians (I used to date a bass player once upon a time) and that it was about grieving. Here’s the blurb:

Twenty years ago, Hugo and Ash were on top of the world. As the acclaimed rock band Ashbirds they were poised for superstardom. Then Ash went missing, lost in a mountaineering accident, and the lives of Hugo and everyone around him were changed forever. Irrepressible, infuriating, mesmerizing Ash left a hole they could never hope to fill.

Two decades on, Ash’s fiancée Elza is still struggling to move on, her private grief outshone by the glare of publicity. The loss of such a rock icon is a worldwide tragedy. Hugo is now a recluse in Nepal, shunning his old life. Robert, an ambitious session player, feels himself both blessed and cursed by his brief time with Ashbirds, unable to achieve recognition in his own right.

While the Ashbirds legend burns brighter than ever, Elza, Hugo and Robert are as stranded as if they were the ones lost in the ice. How far must they go to come back to life?

A lyrical, page-turning novel in the tradition of Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, Ever Rest asks how we carry on after catastrophic loss. It will also strike a chord with fans of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones for its people bonded by an unforgettable time; fans of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, for music as a primal and romantic force; and Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air for the deadly and irresistible wildernesses that surround our comfortable world.

Stories about pop stars are a bit like how Elliot sees Ashbirds’ songs before the Hyde Park concert in Ever Rest – so overfamous that he doesn’t even like them anymore. Until he hears them live in concert. And so is with celebrities we see and hear on every step these days, until you read Roz Morris’s Ever Rest. She imbues the god-like superstars with so many human emotions, motivations and sensitivities that I couldn’t but feel with them, and they stayed with me long after I finished the book.

The entire narrative is built on the tension between the people that Ashten left behind when he died in the Himalayas. The conflicts are so well-written and nuanced (as are the characters and their actions) that they sustain the story till the very end, with the pace never slacking. More than just an insight into celebrity life, Ever Rest’s main appeal is in its demonstration of how fame changes even something as basic as grieving, as the sense of guilt, of uncertainty, of being unable to find closure and move on – and at the same time, how the famous feel the same way mere mortals do.

I was fascinated by Elza’s and Hugo’s characters and how they’ve each reacted differently to the situation. Elza is so contained and stoic in the face of the public scrutiny and I kept expecting her to either break down or fly into a rage at some point. And Hugo distances himself completely from his previous life as a rock star, finding purpose in exactly that which killed his bandmate. To pay for his inability to see the trouble Ashten was in by perfecting his skills and helping others? Who knows.

In Ever Rest, the music and climbing are both a way to lose oneself in (or find themselves). All that vivid detail brought back recollections from when I used to know musicians and that awakening of the memories made the story so much more raw and real.

Five stars from start to finish!

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