Jonathan stands at the edge of a bridge, wobbling, mere seconds from toppling to his death. The only things keeping him rooted to reality are his guitar, named Ruby, and his crew of “thicks”—his best friends, high school boys with the loyalty of Odysseus. Jonathan, self-medicated and frustrated, suffers the aftermath of his twin brother’s death with little grace. He clings instead to Red Bull, Ruby and his poetry, though he distances himself from his local fame as a talented young writer. He buries himself in Bukowski and his own “spontaneous writing” to avoid the rest of his life.

But Jonathan is forced to face reality when he discovers that he will have to redo his junior year if he does not comply with his principal’s requests—first, to write the memoir of a dying, blind old man; and second, to play a terrible song in front of a huge graduation crowd. Jonathan must face his demons, at the Delphi hospice and on stage, and all on very little to no sleep. With the help of his “thicks” and the wisdom of the blind man, Jonathan searches for the “shimmer”—a reason to step away from the bridge’s edge.

Conrad Wesselhoeft’s bildungsroman Adios, Nirvana is heavy with death, sexually frustrated high school dudehood and the hanging rainclouds of west Seattle grunge (Eddie Vedder makes a cameo appearance). The heart of the story, however, is the connection between Jonathan and music. It attaches him permanently to his late brother Telemachus, and it transforms his damaged guitar Ruby into a breathing, warm body. Ruby is his girlfriend, his family and his heart. It is through music that Jonathan is able to “connect to eternal things” and keep himself from toppling over the edge.

Adios, Nirvana is raw and angry, but forgiving in its love affair with guitars and the universality of lifelong grief.

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