The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

by Walton, Dawnie

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*** A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BUZZ PICK! *** An electrifying novel about the meteoric rise of an iconic interracial rock duo in the 1970s, their sensational breakup, and the dark secrets unearthed when they try to reunite decades later for one last tour. "Feels truer and more mesmerizing than some true stories. It's a packed time capsule that doubles as a stick of dynamite." —The New York Times Book Review "One of the most ​immersive novels I've ever read....This is a thrilling work of polyphony—a first novel, that reads like the work of an old hand." —Ta-Nehisi Coates, New York Times bestselling author of The Water Dancer and Between the World and Me * A Most Anticipated Selection By * O, The Oprah Magazine * Vogue * Elle * Good Morning America * Washington Post * Entertainment Weekly * Essence * PopSugar * BookRiot * Goodreads * Literary Hub * Parade * Ms. Magazine * The Millions *Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can't imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar's amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records. In early seventies New York City, just as she's finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal's bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth. Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo's most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything. Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we've not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "After being named the first African American and the first woman editor in chief of the music magazine Aural, S. Sunny Shelton (aka S. Sunny Curtis) adopts a passion project: gathering the oral history of Opal Jewel and Nev Charles, an avant-garde rock duo who found success and a certain cult following in the early seventies. How Opal, "the ebony-skinned provocateur, the fashion rebel, the singer/screecher/Afro-Punk ancestor" from Detroit, and "goofy white English boy" Nev met is the stuff of legend, and Sunny has her own proximity to their story: her father played drums for Opal & Nev, and was killed by the white-supremacist brawlers who stormed one of their concerts. A world-famous photo exists of that terrible night, just one of the many topics Sunny takes to her interviewees--music execs, bandmates, fellow artists, friends, family, and the stars themselves, all memorable characters--for her sprawling documentary project. Former magazine editor Walton's debut novel is so lucidly envisioned, readers will wish that YouTube videos existed of the fictional Opal & Nev. The last third especially shines, when Sunny and Opal break through to each other on a new level and readers understand them both more thoroughly. A cinematic, stereophonic, and boldly imagined story of race, gender, and agency in art."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Walton's spectacular debut pulls off a polyphonic oral history of a fictional proto-Afro-punk performer and her white musical partner. The novel begins with the sensational origin story of unlikely duo Opal & Nev, described by magazine editor S. Sunny Curtis in 2017 as the "progenitors of dissidence and dissonance." After Opal Jewel arrives in New York City from Detroit in 1970, where she'd been an outcast for her radical politics, fashion, and musical style, she meets "goofy white English boy" Nev Charles, a songwriter from Birmingham, at an open mic. Nev is impressed by her performance, and the two team up to produce a phenomenally successful sound. Their star quickly rises, but after a photo appears in 1971 showing Opal blanketed in a Confederate flag as Nev carries her away from a gig turned riot, their career flames out in controversy. The novel's diverse group of voices are cobbled together by Curtis as she searches for the truth behind the iconic "picture of chaos." The story is also personal for Curtis--her father, a drummer, had been having an affair with Opal, and he was killed in the melee. The novel is bookended by an equally violent reunion that confirms a shocking secret, and Opal proves herself the champion of the "marginalized, bullied, discriminated against." Walton pumps up the volume with a fresh angle on systemic racism and freedom of expression. This is a firecracker. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Apr.)"
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Additional Information
Subjects Literature
African American Fiction
Publisher Simon & Schuster2021
Language English
ISBN 9781982140182