Rob Sheffield’s first book, Love Is a Mix Tape, described his first marriage through the songs he and his wife shared, loved and fought over, and ended with her unexpected death from a pulmonary embolism. Turn Around Bright Eyes begins where that book ended, with Rob relocating from Virginia to New York and navigating out of grief and into adulthood via many late nights in karaoke bars.
Each chapter is titled with a song that’s a signpost on Rob’s journey. He attends “Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy” camp, and the band he’s assigned to plays the Bad Company song of the same name. (Sheffield confesses he can’t sing or play an instrument, and bruises his thighs mercilessly with a tambourine.) “Livin’ Thing” briefly mentions the ELO song, but is more about Sheffield adapting to living alone after marriage, then making his first forays out into the world of karaoke, his days measured out in microwave soy burgers, like a modern-day Prufrock.
Sheffield’s grief runs deep, but he learns to move on, one song at a time, and falls in love again, with an astrophysicist and fellow music geek. He tweaks a lyric from “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to sum up his story: “Once upon a time I was falling apart, now I’m always falling in love.” Pop music fans will love finding lyrics studded throughout the book like tiny Valentines. Anyone with a heart should find room in it for Turn Around Bright Eyes.