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The only taste of life Jesse has known in his twenty years is bitter: his mother disappeared before he could talk, his father never got over being left, and Jesse’s presence seems only to kindle his father’s anger. Jesse’s talent is for music, which has given him a livelihood and a home as a bass player in a bar band called Anything Goes. Band life offers the opportunity for the dregs of experience (hangovers, mildewed hotel rooms), and the antics of his band mates (all of them older than he is; some of them wiser, some not) offer more schooling in hard knocks.
Anything Goes tells Jesse’s story over the course of a year, during which he finds his life slowly being tempered by the unexpected: by a dad who wants to make up and be part of Jesse’s life; by a female lead singer who suddenly makes the band sound a lot better than they have any right to be; and by the confidence Jesse begins to feel in his own musical talent.
A complete departure from the sweeping historical vision of Madison Smartt Bell’s Haitian novels and the gritty cynicism of his intense urban dramas, Anything Goes confirms Bell as one of the most versatile, most gifted, most surprising novelists of his generation.