The book is very much based on the love affair and mutual muse-hood of Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, leading lights of the folk-rock world and onetime residents of L.A.’s Edenic Laurel Canyon. But from the very start, it stretches out and becomes its own thing. Brodie works with big themes — individuation, mental illness, legacy, self-destruction and redemption — but her touch is lighter than an onshore breeze ... Brodie, formerly an editor at Little, Brown, has a wicked knack for locating the tone of various music types: journalists, producers, A&R scouts and, of course, prodigiously talented singer-songwriters ... You can tell when a novelist truly loves her heroes and despises her villains ... But Ursa Major is plotted so tightly, its characters so vividly rendered, that you barely notice the author’s thumb on the scale ... Songs in Ursa Major also weaves in a deep understanding of the connection between creativity and madness ... There’s something about Ursa Major that suggests a mythology, a hero’s journey in which the hero is a woman with immense musical gifts and the music business is a beast to overcome and master.
... delightfully engaging ... Brodie, a longtime editor in the publishing world, plays all the right chords in her debut, even if an occasional note (or sex scene) feels off (or like it was written by a different author). Familiar music bio boxes from the creative dynamics of the recording studio to the enticing and acrimonious highs and lows of touring, on-stage and off, are all entertainingly ticked. But what makes Songs in Ursa Major really sing is Jane, and Brodie knows just when to leave the road and focus the spotlight directly on her star, what she wants, what she needs, and what she is willing to give up or give away ... Aside from her clear affinity for her characters, Brodie also lovingly renders Bayleen Island, a thinly veiled stand-in for Martha’s Vineyard. Some specifics feel a bit more 2019 than 1969, but she nails the overall aura of island life ... a great opening act to the summer.
... entrancing ... this superbly crafted debut novel immerses readers in a story of family, love, and music from the first page. Brodie makes a point about the destructive force of drug abuse, and bears witness to unsavory business practices in the music industry. This book would make a wonderful movie; readers will long for an album of Jane’s songs to go with it.