Bluehart is the story of a fictional blues musician who plays accordion. He’s born in the first chapter. He dies in the last chapter. Under that surface there’s more going on. A deep current shapes the characters and sweeps the story forward. The subject of the story isn’t the accordion player or the peculiar events of his life. The subject is freedom.Bluehart projects this elemental concept into day-to-day circumstances and records the results. In so doing, it explores the dimensions, tests the boundaries, and clarifies the ambiguities.
Freedom is experienced as exhilaration and apprehension blended. It is life, full-of-life, but holding its breath. It is a sixteen-year-old boy rolling all of his belongings up into a blanket, throwing the blanket out of the window onto a snowdrift, and following with himself.
Our choices are always limited, sometimes by factors inherent to living (birth circumstances, dependencies of childhood, our natural talents and limitations), sometimes by other individuals (overbearing love, the compromises of relationships), sometimes by groups and organizations (political restrictions, racial or class prejudice), sometimes by chance events. The factors that limit freedom are never-ending and unavoidable. The protagonist of the story finds space for himself outside of all that is imposed on him, and becomes free the way Jean-Paul Sartre defined freedom, “What you do with what’s been done to you.” For A.J., to be free is to salvage a measure of self-determination in a world determined to have its way with him. Seven, the blues musician’s daughter, confronts the same restrictive world, but finds a different answer, a different freedom. Seven learns that the last and most difficult freedom, the ultimate freedom, is freedom from one’s own disappointment and disapproval. To be free is to be self-determined and like the result.
Bluehart is 226 pages, 17 chapters. The story begins with the main characters birth in 1920 and ends with his burial in 1991. In those 71 years he is born half-orphaned, grows up in a Chicago whorehouse, learns to play an accordion that falls into his lap, avoids the draft for World War II, inherits and runs a grocery store, marries, divorces, lives, dies. The last year of his life he undertakes recording his memories and asks his daughter to help with the project. She is reluctant, but longs to know the secret of his happiness and hopes to find it in the recordings. Her handling of this recorded life story is the frame for the novel and the vehicle for her discovery of the key to her own happiness.