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Review: The Soloist

June 5, 2009


Steve Lopez is a columnist for The Los Angeles Times.  While he was searching for a story one day, he encountered Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a homeless man playing a violin that was missing some strings.   After talking to Nathanial for a while he discovered that he attended Juilliard and a column was born.  Nathaniel struck a chord with Steve and the column struck a chord with the public.  Several people offered instruments to Nathaniel and Steve delivered them to him with the condition that he store them at LAMP – the Los Angeles Men’s Project – so they won’t be stolen.

Steve Lopez developed a fondness for Nathaniel and worked hard to help him by contacting his sister, doctors and social workers.  He pieced together Nathaniel’s background and discovered that schizophrenia destroyed Nathaniel’s dreams while he was studying at Juilliard.  The two men develop a deep bond and Steve spends a lot of time with Nathaniel.  He comes to realize that music is the best medicine for Nathaniel – it’s when he feels the most peaceful and calm.  Steve is a wonderful advocate for Nathaniel and arranged music lessons, concerts and a visit from Nathaniel’s sister.  Steve comes to think of Nathaniel almost like family and includes him in some family activities and dinners.

The Soloist by Steve Lopez is a wonderful book about the relationship between Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers.  In it, Steve chronicles the ups and downs of their relationship and even questions his motives behind helping Anthony.   The writing is crisp, yet Steve’s affection for Nathaniel is abundantly clear.  Even though parts of this book are sad, I found it joyful and uplifting.  I’ve always thought of myself as being pretty open-minded, but this book made me think about my attitudes toward homelessness and mental illness.  Steve has done a tremendous amount of work to improve the quality of Nathaniel’s life, but he is quick to admit that their relationship means as much to him as it does to Nathaniel.  In case you couldn’t tell, I loved this book.

Here’s a great video with Mr. Lopez and Mr. Ayers:

37 Comments leave one →
  1. kaye permalink
    June 5, 2009 7:18 am

    I saw a segment about this amazing man on 60 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed it. I would imagine the book to be even better, much more in depth. Mr. Ayers is so talented.

  2. June 5, 2009 7:38 am

    I saw an interview with Steve and Nathaniel on 60 minutes and was amazed at this story. Nathaniel grew up in Cleveland, which is near me and there have been articles in the paper about his story. I was touched by their friendship and how deeply they care about each other. I have the book on my TBR shelves and look forward to seeing it and the movie. I’m glad to hear that you loved it! I like that it brings attention to homelessness and mental illness as this is such a major issue in our country and many people fall between the cracks as there aren’t as many places for them to live.

  3. June 5, 2009 8:03 am

    Yours is the first review I have read of this book, and it sounds like a moving story. Have you seen the film?

  4. June 5, 2009 8:08 am

    I wasn’t familiar with this book until your review. And it sounds just beautiful! I love that it touched you on many different levels.

  5. June 5, 2009 8:28 am

    I would love to read “The Soloist.” Wonderful review.

  6. June 5, 2009 9:25 am

    Sounds so good! Don’t you love it when a book makes you think about how you view things?

  7. June 5, 2009 9:56 am

    Sounds like a beautiful book. My husband (suprisingly) wants to see the movie. I told him I need to read the book first. I guess that means we’re waiting til it comes out on DVD!

  8. June 5, 2009 10:10 am

    Ok – this will definitely go at the top of the TBR list. Having lived in NYC I passed many homeless street musicians and while I always had a soft spot in my heart for them, I am ashamed to say that I did not do anything for them but hand over a dollar or two. I think this book will resonate with me on several levels.

    Thanks for (another) awesome review!

  9. June 5, 2009 10:46 am

    I saw previews for the film, which looked great, but didn’t see it. Now I’d like to read the book first. I love it when I book makes me re-think my attitudes.

  10. June 5, 2009 10:46 am

    I have heard of the movie and didn’t realize it was based on a book. Thank you so much bringing this to my attention. And thanks for the video, too. This is probably a must-read book.

  11. J.S. Peyton permalink
    June 5, 2009 11:58 am

    I’ve heard great things about the movie. Do you plan on seeing that anytime soon? Would love to know how you think it compares to the book.

  12. June 5, 2009 12:56 pm

    This sounds like a great book. Stop by my blog for a couple of awards!

  13. June 5, 2009 12:59 pm

    i recently saw a preview for the film version of this book–but didn’t know it was a book! i’m eager to read it and learn more about this relationship. thanks for the tip and review!

  14. June 5, 2009 1:07 pm

    this sounds like a beautiful book – I will have to read it. I love the cover too.

  15. June 5, 2009 1:12 pm

    Thanks for the review Kathy…I know that when I saw the movie previews it looked like one that I would enjoy.

  16. June 5, 2009 2:14 pm

    I enjoyed this book when I read it at the end of last year. The university that I work for chose it for their “one book” promotion. I had not seen this You Tube clip and it was nice to put faces to the names.

  17. June 5, 2009 4:14 pm

    This looks really good!

  18. June 5, 2009 4:44 pm

    What an awesome, inspiring story. I’ll have to seek this one out. Thanks!

  19. June 5, 2009 5:05 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful story, it’s not often enough that you hear or read about the relationships/friendships between men. Thank you for the review, I’ll be adding this one to my TBR for sure 🙂

  20. June 5, 2009 5:46 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this book before your review Kathy. It certainly sounds like one worth reading. Thanks.

  21. June 5, 2009 5:51 pm

    Wow! What a story. It’s very inspiring. I hadn’t heard of it either but it’s going on my wishlist now. The video is very moving too.

  22. June 5, 2009 6:04 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful book, I do love these books rooted into reality.

  23. alirambles permalink
    June 5, 2009 7:28 pm

    A friend of mine recommended this book to me but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Sounds like I need to make it a priority.

  24. alirambles permalink
    June 5, 2009 7:32 pm

    Oh–and that video is amazing. Thank you.

  25. June 5, 2009 7:54 pm

    This one is new to me. Loved your review.. if you love it.. I have a feeling I will too. Great post.

  26. June 5, 2009 9:45 pm

    wonderful review. i haven’t heard of this book but you make it sound great!

  27. June 6, 2009 3:29 am

    I’ve seen the movie previews and been really interested in learning more about this one. I may have to give the book a try. Thanks for the great review, Kathy!

  28. June 6, 2009 8:26 am

    The film was very moving, too. I stumbled across this area a few years ago on a visit to the L.A. Times, which is just a few blocks away. It was shocking; hard to imagine that it was America. At the time, nearby buildings were being gentrified, and new residents were putting pressure on the city to move the homeless. I wonder whether that was another reason city officials became so involved.

  29. June 6, 2009 8:32 am

    Excellent review Kathy and the sad part is that most homeless people are mentally ill. I’ve wanted to see the movie but it certainly sounds like the book is the way to start off!!

  30. June 6, 2009 9:52 pm

    Wasnt’ this a fabulous story!? I listened to this in audio format last year and it stuck with me. Looking forward to the movie.

  31. June 7, 2009 7:25 am

    The book does sound good. You wrote a wonderful review, too.

  32. June 7, 2009 7:59 am

    I’ve been meaning to read this book. My mom and I went to see the movie, and while I think we both left the theatre feeling a bit less than uplifted (What? You mean unconditional happy endings aren’t the norm for real life?), the film was great and it really made us think and even talk about the many issues it brings up. Their story definitely made an impression on us, and I look forward to reading the book, too. Thanks for the great review!

  33. June 7, 2009 10:58 pm

    I really want to read this one, I’ve had it on my shelf for awhile. I’m curious as to how it measures up to the movie.

  34. June 8, 2009 1:38 am

    I’m really glad to see your review. I think I’d really enjoy this book, and Chuck and I have wanted to go see the film for a while now.

  35. June 8, 2009 3:35 pm

    I always considered myself open-minded and compassionate towards people who are homeless, but perhaps, like you, I would learn so much from this book that it would surprise me. Great review.

  36. June 10, 2009 5:37 pm

    Oh great video. I grew up with a great-grandfather with Alzheimer’s Disease and unfortunately that’s the only way I remember him so people with mental illnesses have always scared me on some level. This sounds like an incredibly powerful book!

  37. June 17, 2009 10:51 am

    What an interesting story! I encounter homeless people nearly every day, and I see how people are so quick to judge them. I often wonder about their stories. I’ll have to keep this book in mind.


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