Reading Amy Poeppel’s Musical Chairs is as fun as watching a Marx Brothers comedy, especially that scene in A Night at the Opera when everyone is squashed into the stateroom.
Warmhearted, maternal, beautiful and rich, Bridget Stratton has long been the cellist in the Forsyth Trio. The problem is that they’re actually a duo, as she and the pianist, her platonic pal Will, have no luck in keeping a violinist. The most recent was Gavin, whom both Will and Bridget sort of disliked. (He was brilliant and never let them forget it.) When the novel opens, Bridget has come to Connecticut to spend the summer in her ramshackle old country house down the road from her famous dad’s sprawling estate, and she is getting a little desperate for a fiddler.
Then Bridget’s hypochondriac daughter, Isabelle, decides to spend the summer in her mother’s guesthouse. Isabelle’s lovelorn twin, Oscar, arrives soon after. Will pops in and falls in love with the sexy local florist. Everyone manages to bring their cats and dogs, including a bear-size Newfoundland named Bear. Even Will’s inamorata has a menacing parrot. These folks can’t seem to function without their familiars.
Meanwhile, Bridget’s dad, composer Edward Stratton, is getting married. This charming and crotchety gentleman is pushing 90, and so is his fiancée. Should Will and Bridget surprise them by playing one of Edward’s compositions at the wedding? Reenter Gavin, demonic toddler and persnickety wife in tow. At least they don’t have a dog.
Among many other characters are Jackie, Edward’s young assistant, who’s both hapless and efficient; Edward’s housekeeper, Marge, a mashup of Hazel and Alice from “The Brady Bunch”; and Bridget’s sister, Gwen, dropper of famous names.
Poeppel’s people are a mess, but her writing is crisp and breezy. Where does everyone end up when the music stops? Read and find out.