What an absolute heartbreaker of a book! It's probably not possible for a sap like me to talk about it without evoking Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, so I'll get that out of the way. Hornby proved, to thousands of us, that we were not alone in obsessing over music and hoping to bond with some girl over it. Rob Sheffield was one of those who successfully pulled it off, and married a firebrand named Renee thanks to a shared interest in Big Star bringing them together.
Five years later, however, Renee was dead, killed almost instantly by a pulmonary embolism. So yeah, this book gets a little heavier than Hornby.
It's an absolutely engrossing memoir, and I love the way that Sheffield tells it, bouncing around his unlucky past and up through his mostly happy marriage, filled with fights about money and pets and his admiration for everything that Renee does. The circumstances of her tragic death will knock readers on the head as thoroughly as it must have been for him; he tells the story of her funeral that well.
Somehow, the story remains otherwise upbeat, geeky and silly despite the dark incident at the book's core. Sheffield's self-deprecating humor and his and Renee's love of music on cassette keeps the story invigorating and fun. He provides fodder for a hundred arguments among record collecting types - I'm with Renee on XTC, and Sheffield's just flat out wrong about the R.E.M. LP Document - and the feeling of optimism and hope in the book's final sections just made my day. Absolutely readable and compelling, although possibly not for people who never made mix tapes.