Influenced by my family, I seem to be listening to more and more country music lately, so I was intrigued by Suzanne Supplee's new book called Somebody Everybody Listens To. The main character, Retta Lee Jones, heads to Nashville after high school graduation to pursue her dreams of becoming a country music star. Borrowing her great aunt’s car, she ends up living in it as one catastrophe after another occurs.
First, she runs into a brick wall and has to have her car towed and repaired. However, Ricky,the tow truck driver takes pity on her, and after listening to her sing Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man," offers her a job so she can work off what she owes. He becomes one of her biggest allies as she navigates the Nashville music scene.
After losing all her money in a mugging on Music Row, she ends up living in her car and taking spit baths in public restrooms. She takes a second job singing in the bar at a run down hotel in Franklin. There she meets the bartender, Chat Snyder, a former country singer who at first tries to intimidate her, but then advises her to stop singing covers and sing her own music.
Even more difficult than living in her car and dealing with rejection from people in the music business are the pulls from home where her parents’ marriage is dissolving. As an only child, she struggles not to side with either parent in their squabbles. When Ricky gives her two tickets to the Mockingbird (which is based on Nashville's legendary Bluebird Café) for open mike night, she sings an original song about her family problems. She touches the hearts of the people in the audience when she sings "I'm not ready to decide which one to choose in your it's over ride."
Retta is inspired, as was I, by the hard knock lives of successful country singers, whose biographies are included at the beginning of each chapter. It is amazing how many country western singers dealt with poverty and tragedy before they made it big. For instance, Shania Twain lost both parents when she was twenty-two and became the guardian of her three siblings. Retta perseveres in looking for that first break to ignite her career and is ultimately rewarded. This book will appeal to fans of country music, as well as any reader who enjoys a good story about a plucky heroine following her dreams.