We are excited to be hosting a stop today on the official blog tour for Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner, which follows 16-year-old competitive swimmer Otis and his struggle to move on after the death of his brother.
Learn more about the book below & enter to win a copy, but first! Paula stops by to share her official playlist for Phantom Limbs. All song notes are from Paula herself, who explains how they fit into the novel:
- “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones
A major thread that runs through Phantom Limbs is Dara’s car, and how Otis is “never in the right decade” when he’s in it. At the beginning of the book Dara picks up Otis for early morning swim practice with The Rolling Stones blasting from her stereo. The song is 1978’s “Miss You,” which doesn’t help Otis stop thinking about Meg, whose imminent return he has just learned about. As he says, “Haunted? Dreaming? Waiting? I could have written the lyrics myself.”
- “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash
Later, when Otis and Meg go to a party at Dara’s, he hears The Clash emanating from her basement and deduces that they are now perhaps in the eighties. He is correct. The song he heard, although unnamed in the novel, was “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” which was not only an expression of how he felt at the party—like an outlier, someone who didn’t belong or even want to be there—but also a metaphor for his struggles throughout the novel, i.e., figuring out what to hold onto and what to let go of—including Meg herself.
- “Candy Says” by Velvet Underground
On another evening, Dara picks Otis up so they can both escape being alone and hurting on a Saturday night. “Lou Reed’s distinctive voice emanated from Dara’s car—one of those poetic, stoned-sounding Velvet Underground songs. We were in the 1960s or 1970s tonight.”
It was in fact the sixties. The poetic, stoned-sounding song he heard was “Candy Says.” This song might resonate with Dara, especially the line, “I’ve come to hate my body.” Since the loss of her arm (and the loss of her Olympic dream), Dara feels she has nothing left. She struggles with hating her body and also hating herself. Additionally, the line “if I could walk away from me” turns out to be chillingly foreshadowing.
- “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison
Otis was also in the wrong decade years earlier when he and Meg still lived next door to each other and their parents would commandeer the music. The song playing during Otis and Meg’s first kiss at thirteen was Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” and it pretty much encapsulated all the intense emotions Otis was feeling.
- “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s
The one contemporary (ish!) song reference in the book was in an earlier draft, when Otis and Meg discovered that they each thought of the other when the song “Hey There Delilah” came out. They both recognized the way the song expressed the bewildering brokenness of their relationship, the steadfastness of their feelings for each other, and the ache over the disruption of dreams they both had for a perfect future together.
Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.
Paula Garner spends most of her time making food, drinks, and narratives, despite being surrounded by an alarming TBR pile and a very bad cat. Her debut YA novel, Phantom Limbs, comes out from Candlewick in 2016. Paula is represented by Molly Jaffa of Folio Lit, and lives in the Chicago area with her family.
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