If the name Val Emmich sounds familiar to you, it’s because you may have recently seen him on HBO’s Mick Jagger’s and Martin Scorsese’s produced TV show Vinyl, about a record executive in the 1970’s. Or you may remember him from other popular TV shows such as Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, and Cashmere Mafia. Or you may have stumbled upon some of his songs whilst watching an episode of Teen Wolf.
More recently, you may find Val Emmich in the bookstore in the form of his debut novel, The Reminders.
The plot is pretty straight forward, it’s told in alternating voices (something that Jennifer Niven loves to do in her novels as well), between Gavin Winters, an actor of a semi-popular TV show that has recently lost the love of his life and Joan Lennon Sully, a precocious ten-year old girl with a fascinating but rare neurological condition that allows her to recall every single detail of her life since the age of four.
Gavin and Joan’s lives meet when Gavin goes to visit his old college friends in New Jersey, as a way to escape a scandal in Los Angeles and in the meantime try to forget his time with his partner Sydney since the memories are too painful for him to move on. Meanwhile, Joan struggles with the notion of being forgotten after her grandmother has difficulty remembering her because of Alzheimer’s disease and yet can still recall all the lyrics of her favourite songs, which prompt her to believe that in order to be remembered she must write an amazing song just like John Lennon (her hero and namesake). Once Joan learns that Gavin used to be a musician, she attempts to persuade her into helping her write a memorable song if she in return shares with him her memories of his late love. Together, they forge a very dynamic and amusing bond.
The novel’s strength is that is has us pondering the importance of memories. Is it a curse to forget or is it an even bigger curse to remember? Ultimately, the reader will come up with their own conclusions on that as the characters each demonstrate the pros and cons of both of those throughout the novel. If you’re a music lover (in particular a Beatles fan) you’re going to love all the tidbits about them strewn throughout the novel. I particularly enjoyed being able to see the world with child-like wonder as Joan and then seeing the world from the eyes of an emotionally broken character such as Gavin. One of the best moments in the novel is when the two of them end up on the Mindy Love Show (that for some reason reminds me very much of The Wendy Williams Show) and how that goes drastically different from how both characters thought it would go, but as a reader it was hilarious although you’re left sort of cringing for the two characters at the same time.
If you’re hoping to get immersed in a music-filled ode to memories and the power they hold, then The Reminders is right up your ally. It’s a fun, light, but also thought-provoking book about love, loss, and what is worth fighting for, that will leave you missing the characters once you’re done.
Short Q & A with the Author:
Your book focuses on the importance of memory –what is one of your favourite childhood memories?
Joan in the book has an exceptional memory, but unfortunately my memory is terrible. I don’t have a specific favorite memory that sticks out in my mind but I remember moments when I was hanging out with friends and we’d laugh so hard that our stomachs would be in real pain. I haven’t had one of those painful laughs in ages and I miss it.
As an artist –the art of creation means that whatever you create will outlive you. Since you’ve dabbled in various mediums, which one do you think is the most representative of you?
At this point, if I stopped making art tomorrow, my music would be the thing that probably best encapsulates me as a person. Mainly because there’s so much of it and it spans more than half of my life, so you’d have a pretty comprehensive look at what I care about and how I’ve changed over time. But to get the truest sense of me as a person, I think you’d want to look at all my art together, in its various forms. It all tells a different part of my overall story.
The novel seems to be an ode to The Beatles, so it’s obvious to ask what is your favourite Beatles song?
I don’t have one and I’m suspicious of anyone who can choose just one. I can’t even pick my favorite album. What I love about them is their variety, the scope of their achievement. This relates to the previous question. The Beatles are a big, messy, evolving thing that becomes more complex and rewarding when taken as a whole. I’m sorry to dodge the question, but it’s the truth, I can’t choose. Nor can I choose a favorite member of the band. Contrary to what one may think from reading my book, it’s not necessarily John Lennon. I love all four of them and I love how they balanced each other out and formed a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts.
The whole time I was reading, The Reminders, I kept thinking about how Matt Bomer would be perfect for the role of Gavin Winters in a movie adaptation. Who would you think would best portray the character?
I think Matt Bomer would be great. I hadn’t thought of him. Well done. The novel has in fact been optioned for a film and when I flew to Los Angeles to meet the creative team they asked me this same question and I didn’t have an answer. They mentioned Ryan Gosling, probably just to get the conversation started. I thought that would be interesting. My wife would want it to be Gael Garcia Bernal just so she could meet him.
I think that anyone who’s read The Reminders, will agree that the real scene stealer is Joan, the little girl with the incredible memory. I really enjoyed reading her chapters and wonder if there may be a possible future for her in later books or not?
Anything is possible. I don’t have any plans for a followup right now but I’ve been getting this question a lot and I’m flattered that people would be interested in reading more. Maybe down the line. I’ve already started writing a new novel with different characters and so that’s my focus for the time being.
Get your copy of The Reminders today!
By: Azzurra Nox