In the first part of the book, Jake Mulholland is a college broadcasting student from Pittsburgh. He’s an average guy who comes from a loving family, and like most average guys from loving families, he has hangups—with his father, especially, and with his father’s voice, specifically. Author David W. Berner describes “voice” from the onset of the story, effortlessly placing the reader in an era of 1970s radio. One doesn’t need to have radio background to grasp the intricacies of a station, due to the author’s conversational style and masterful detail. Furthermore, the audience might not even know it desires a connection to this world, but once Berner’s intelligent music references and subtle time-period elements surface, the reader can’t help but get addicted.
Jake is in a relationship with the likable Sarah, but he questions love and all it has to offer. Ridden with guilt from family history as well as the decisions he makes as a college student, Jake accepts his self-inflicted shame and simply lives with the stigma rather than dealing with it. Such an indiscretion can only lead to a downward spiral, which it does in the second half of the book where themes of loss, redemption, and second chances come to view. Berner finally sheds light on Jake in the only way the main character could possibly emerge from the darkness—behind the microphone.
I highly recommend Night Radio, David W. Berner’s first published work of fiction. His knack for weaving musical and literary nuances throughout the story will have any middle-aged reader reaching for an old record album or classic book collection. Berner also uses a stripping motif that readers might take as just one part of the hippie trinity of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll; however, for this reader, it serves as a symbol for ones need to bare the soul, to be exposed in order to face demons and move forward. Through Jake, the author also writes with wisdom, as can be seen in the line, “Maybe we are simply defined by what we are trying to be, not what we are at any given moment—slaves to our own visions and whatever the gods are asking us to discover.”
I am a fan of Berner’s memoirs, but I look forward to more fiction from this award-winning author. You should, too!
Night Radio is available at Amazon.com.
- Geralyn Hesslau Magrady