It could be said that this is the story of the friendship and love between 3 people but it is so much more. Bela Koe-Krompecher leaves small town Ohio for the big city (Columbus) with his childhood sweetheart Jenny Mae Leffel. They meet up with Jerry Wick, lead singer of the punk rock band Gaunt. The story is not presented in chronological order but is a 20 year old tale told in small, non linear memory bites.
Yes, there is plenty of gentle humour and love but the book also tells us of addiction, homelessness, childhood trauma, and mental illness, grief and loss. It’s a story of deep friendship and what you do for people you love. It’s also a story of the music that runs through their life and pulls them closer together. The music is a support and a structure. Bela writes of his work in a vinyl record shop and the opportunity to meet fellow musicians, including the Ramones. There is a playlist on Spotify that goes along with this book. However, it’s much more than a name dropping book.
The majority of the book is set in Ohio and, having lived there for a short period of my life, Bela portrays it wonderfully. His portrait of small town versus big city life will have resonance for all that have made the change.
He tells his own tale of being addicted to alcohol and its impact on his life and that of others. It’s a journey of drinking, not drinking and then drinking again before being alcohol free. Bela manages to stay in the lives of his friends who are still addicted and provides the reader with a fascinating insight into sustaining friendship. Like the rest of the book it’s not a linear progression. He now works as a social worker for the homeless.
I found the book extremely readable. I read and enjoyed it in one sitting. The structure takes a little bit of getting used to but in my opinion adds to the reading pleasure. It helps to know that his writing started as a blog and is presented as a series of interlinked memories.
Love, Death and Photosynthesis is available now, published by Don Giovanni Records
Review by Carolyn Batcheler