It's a warm, bright October afternoon, and Ozro Armstead walks out into the sunshine on his thirty-seventh birthday. At home, his wife Deborah and daughter Trinity prepare a celebration; down the street, his brother waves as Oz heads back to his office after having lunch together. But he won't make it to the party or even to his briefcase back at his desk. He's about to disappear. In the days, months, and years to follow, Deborah and Trinity look backward and forward as they piece together the life of the man they love, but whom they come to realize they might never have truly known.
Life and Other Love Songs is a precisely observed, often beautiful book about family, love, loss and the hidden history that shapes lives. Shifts in time and narrator nod at a greater theme: To understand a family’s present, you have to trace its past in multiple directions ... The prose is beautiful and poignant, and the characters indelible ... Still, crucial moments also expose something missing. While Trinity and Deborah’s experiences are told in the first person, Oz’s point of view is relayed from an evocative but external perspective, even though he’s inevitably the most striking and haunted character of them all ... It seems a curious contrast since Oz is the novel’s reflective, regretful heart and yet he doesn’t quite get to have his own voice. Something is lost in that choice, even if what’s left is unforgettable.
Gray keeps the narrative interest high by teasing out the mystery of Oz’s disappearance as the family splinters ... Oz, the most complicated character, retains a core of decency even as his mistakes pile up, and Trinity is a snappy smart-mouth... who injects the story with energy and moments of comic relief. The trajectory of Gray's flawed but relatable characters offers hope that even deep, long-festering wounds can heal.