Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta looked, to me, like a quiet, unassuming book about a blossoming romance set amidst a series of mysterious deaths at a New York theater. Instead, what I found was an explosive look at femininity and love and loss and power, and the deeply unsettling pattern of ignoring misogyny and abuse when it’s couched under “artistic genius.”
Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.
There is a thread of intensity woven throughout the entirety of Echo After Echo, almost an uneasiness, that draws the reader forward throughout what is, mostly, a fairly unassuming narrative. A play is being rehearsed for its Broadway debut. There aren’t any big action scenes or huge dramatic moments; but that pulse of unease … it has power and carries you from one page to the next, gaining steam as the mysteries and unsettling situations within the Aurelia unfold.
And the events that take place in Echo After Echo are unsettling (though perhaps not unfamiliar), and the reader both understands why Zara puts up with so much for so long – while also silently urging her to push back.
In Leopold Henneman, Capetta has imbued the spirit of every male creative who has ever taken advantage of women throughout his career and been excused for it because of “His Art.” Echo After Echo isn’t afraid to call out that B.S. for what it is – and thank God, because we need more books like this. Books that aren’t afraid to speak the truth about what it is to be a woman in this world.
But as much as Leopold may be painted as the villain, Capetta’s narrative is far from one note. Through other characters, she shows that it is possible for men to be supportive creative partners. For friends to make mistakes and learn from them, and be the better for it.
And for all the book takes on these Big Significant Themes, it also contains just the sweetest, most intense slow-burn romance. Toe-curling, giggle-inducing, happy-sigh romances.
Echo After Echo is a book that will shake you up and make you think intensely, but will also satisfy you with love and mystery and triumph. Look for it in stores October 10th.