Set in Chicago during the late 1970s, "Record Palace" is an eccentric debut novel about jazz, art, race, and identity.
In hazed heat, mid-September, walking north from Chicago's Loop, telling myself I was exploring the new life, I dogged as much for tonic, gin. A sign swung beside a basement door, in, out, mirage: Record Palace: J ZZ. Inside I found Acie.
Cindy, a lean, lonely white girl, has come to Chicago to study art history, to be anywhere but where she came from tract housing in Thousand Oaks, California; mock-stucco buildings; "incessant sun and incessant sunniness of every blonde girl."
Record Palace, littered with cans of malt liquor and remnants of past meals, also has boxes upon boxes of records all jazz. And it has Acie, "big on all sides, top included. A hairnet, the hair below the net long and limp with oil. Green stretch pants, flip-flops, a thin black U-tank taut across Sumo folds." Cindy knows she doesn't belong, and this is why she stays.
Cindy's determination leads to a tentative friendship with Acie, and she becomes a familiar, if not fully understood, presence in the store. But it is through her chance meeting with Acie's son that she becomes embroiled in an unusual crime.
With prose that resembles the syncopated rhythms of jazz, Susan Wheeler offers a stunning portrait of a woman searching for an identity."