Country music legend Parton’s strong debut, an exhilarating rags-to-riches story coauthored with bestseller Patterson (The President Is Missing with Bill Clinton), revolves around the troubled past of plucky singer/songwriter AnnieLee Keyes. AnnieLee’s plan is to “get the hell out of Texas” and hitchhike to Nashville, Tenn., where she hopes to start her career as a performer. In Nashville, AnnieLee encounters ruthless, predatory agents and managers, but she also meets positive role models, notably Ruthanna Ryder, “one of country music’s grandest queens,” who takes AnnieLee under her wing. “If you want to make it in this town,” Ruthanna tells her, “being talented is just one little tiny part of the battle. Fearlessness is mandatory. And shamelessness sure as hell don’t hurt.” Her other ally is guitarist Ethan Blake, who brings her to Ruthanna’s attention. When AnnieLee’s life is threatened, she needs the help of her new friends to survive. Never mind that the mystery element runs a distant second to the story of AnnieLee making good in Nashville. Parton fans will relish this timeless fairy tale, which displays the singer’s lively way with words and draws liberally from her experience in the music business. Agent: Robert Barnett, Williams & Connolly. (Mar.)
Yes, that's the Dolly Parton, contributing plot points to this story of a talented young singer-songwriter who has followed her dream to Nashville but remains terrified of the seething troubles she left behind. Will shadowy figures from her past come get her? Parton wrote 12 songs especially for the book. With a one-million-copy first printing.
A singer/songwriter at the beginning of her career is befriended by a retired country-music luminary, but will the young woman's past destroy her before her star can ascend?
"Underneath that sweet, doll-faced exterior, there was something fierce and furious about AnnieLee Keyes. Some dark pain powered those pipes; Ruthanna was sure of it." Like Bill Clinton before her, Parton has hooked up with Patterson to channel the details of her profession into a thriller framework—and in this case, to provide an album of songs purportedly written by the three main characters to be released at the same time. When we meet AnnieLee, she is on the run, hitchhiking to Nashville to escape some mysterious nightmare situation. Standing in the rain, she starts singing to herself: "Is it easy / No it ain't / Can I fix it? / No I cain't." This will become "Woman Up (and Take It Like a Man)," one of the songs she debuts in a roadside dive called the Cat's Paw, begging a place on the stage and playing a borrowed guitar before slinking off to sleep in a public park. But she has already been noticed by Ethan Blake, a handsome Afghanistan veteran–turned–Nashville session player and secret songwriter—"Demons, demons, we've both had enough of our own / Demons, demons, we don't have to fight them alone." He will take word of this tiny, skittish prodigy to his boss, the beloved Ruthanna Ryder, who has stepped back from a mega-career after personal tragedy—and who happens to own the Cat's Paw. Ruthanna, who recalls the great Parton in coiffure, jewelry, generosity, and business know-how, sees her former self in AnnieLee—"Big dreams and faded jeans / Fit together like a team"—and immediately goes to work to help her climb the slippery ladder of stardom. But between AnnieLee's durn pride and the vicious, violent marauders who are on her tail, it won't be easy. Good thing Patterson was there to give Ethan those military superhero moves. Showdown in Vegas, y'all!
The fairy-tale characters and details of the country-music scene are so much fun you won't mind the silly plot.