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The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music | [Steve Lopez]

The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music

When journalist Steve Lopez sees Nathaniel Ayers playing his heart out on a two-string violin on Los Angeles' skid row, he finds it impossible to walk away. More than 30 years ago, Ayers was a promising classical bass student at Juilliard - ambitious, charming, and also one of the few African-Americans there - until he gradually lost his ability to function, overcome by schizophrenia.

Over time, the two men form a bond and Lopez imagines that he might be able to change Ayers' life. The Soloist is a beautifully told story of devotion in the face of seemingly unbeatable challenges.

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Publisher's Summary

When journalist Steve Lopez sees Nathaniel Ayers playing his heart out on a two-string violin on Los Angeles' skid row, he finds it impossible to walk away. More than 30 years ago, Ayers was a promising classical bass student at Juilliard - ambitious, charming, and also one of the few African-Americans there - until he gradually lost his ability to function, overcome by schizophrenia.

Over time, the two men form a bond and Lopez imagines that he might be able to change Ayers' life. The Soloist is a beautifully told story of devotion in the face of seemingly unbeatable challenges.

©2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"With self-effacing humor, fast-paced yet elegant prose and unsparing honesty, Lopez tells an inspiring story of heartbreak and hope." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (427 )
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4.1 (221 )
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Story
4.1 (220 )
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    David Orem, UT, USA 05-05-08
    David Orem, UT, USA 05-05-08 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating true story"

    Stories like this open our eyes and remind us that there are people all around us who struggle with enormous challenges; and that sometimes we CAN make a difference. The author gets drawn into the mysterious life of a homeless man and is forced to confront not only the problems that get people to that situation, but also the choices and forces that keep them there. He learns much about mental illness, but can he get the man off Skid Row and help him deal with his problems and reclaim his rare gift of music? Well written, fascinating topic, and a true story to boot. Just published this year, and already there is a movie version in production. Listen to the book first before the movie spoils it for you!

    39 of 39 people found this review helpful
  •  
    reggie p PA 06-26-08
    reggie p PA 06-26-08 Member Since 2003

    reggie

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fantastic Audiobook"

    This is one of the best audio books I've listened to in a while. Excellent writing, wonderful narration, and a terrific story.
    The author provides a good perspective on how mental health affects lives and how one person can make a difference in someone's life.
    It will tug at your soul, stretch your heart and bring tears to your eyes.

    20 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela Dale Foster Sykesville, MD 10-11-13
    Pamela Dale Foster Sykesville, MD 10-11-13 Member Since 2010

    I listen to and have recently started to write reviews. I've found the reviews have helped me to select books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Phenomenal Classical Musician"
    If you could sum up The Soloist in three words, what would they be?

    Brilliant/Hope/Mental Illness


    What did you like best about this story?

    Knowing that Nathaniel was still able to play beautiful, classical music with string instruments and the piano, gave me internal peace and such happiness for Nathaniel. When Steven Lopez first noticed Nathaniel playing classical music with his not so perfect violin, while on a street corner in the city of Los Angeles, he saw a story for the newspaper. However, he found himself taking an interest in Nathaniel as a man and a friend. Steve worried about Nathaniel and worked with him and the system to find a place for him to live with supervision. It was a struggle for Nathaniel to come in off of the streets and live in a place of his own. He did not like living with the rules that govern society. He had lived on the streets for almost 35 years. Steve had to come to terms with the power and limitations that schizophrenia had over a man such as Nathaniel. There was no certainty that Nathaniel wouldn't leave the apartment and live on the streets again. Nathaniel was unpredictable but Steve had found a friend and realized that he would have to continue to learn to accept him as he was.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The narrator did not distinguish the character's one from the other. His voice was good and I had no issues with listening to the book but I was glad that he did let the reader know who was talking. I found that the character's all sounded too much alike. I enjoy listening to individual character's. The narrator did use good characterization of feelings such as anger, disappointment, happiness, etc.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I did not have an extreme reaction to this book.


    Any additional comments?

    Schizophrenia usually presents itself from a person's late teens through their early twenties. There is medication that can help the schizophrenic stabilize the voices that they hear, medication that is helpful in decreasing a person's psychotic episodes as well as their paranoia. However, even when a schizophrenic takes his medication daily. as prescribed by his physician, he will have break through episodes that do require hospitalization until stabilized. The schizophrenic is never symptom free. However, not all schizophrenic's live how Nathaniel lived. The deinstitutionalization of some of the mentally ill patient's, with many different types of mental illness, back into society was not good for the patient's themselves. Saving money was the issue, not providing "freedom from an institution." Not all of them knew to take care of themselves, even though the social workers found placement for each patient who left the hospital. They walked away and started living on the streets. Therefore, some of these people are now part of the homeless, who live in the cities all across America. Nathaniel managed to survive on the streets with schizophrenia but I think retaining the ability to play his music was awesome. Having someone such as Steve Lopez becoming involved with Nathaniel, as he did, was a miracle, if you believe in miracles. I was very happy that Steve finally learned to accept Nathaniel as Nathaniel.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah St. Paul, MN, United States 03-16-09
    Deborah St. Paul, MN, United States 03-16-09 Member Since 2003
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    "Moving and true"

    A quick listen. It is moving and shows the toll schizophrenia takes on a life and the life of a family. It also reminds us we are who we are and that may be just fine. The soul can endure even when the mind is ill.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marylou Bend, OR, United States 05-14-09
    Marylou Bend, OR, United States 05-14-09
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    "Poignant"

    This is an incredible book. The hopes and expectations of Mr Lopez remained all the while Mr Ayers tested (knowingly or unknowingly) Mr Lopez time and again.. This book is mesmerizing.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 08-09-14
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 08-09-14 Member Since 2009

    Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.

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    "Hope, Illusion, Schizophrenia"

    It is seldom that I choose nonfiction books, and when I do I am often disappointed. Not this time. I haven't seen the movie . . . doubt if I will . . . they usually come no where near the book. I am one of those people who have really been angered by the laws which put the mentally ill out on the streets many years ago, when "in their best interest" the mental institutions were eventually all closed down, along with all the other institutional placements for the severely handicapped. You see, I am the mother of a severely mentally retarded, severely autistic adult, who only through the grace of God, lots of work on our part (mine and my husband's), and constantly advocating for her, is now in an appropriate group home close to us, where she is safe. Mental illness is very different. But I'm not entirely sure that we've done these precious people any service by closing all the facilities which once housed them. There are so many ethical questions, so many questions of safety, not only of the mentally ill themselves, but that of the family members who spend years trying their best to care for their loved ones, many of which end up injured and sometimes killed by the person they are trying to take care of. One of the saddest stories happened here in Alabama when a teenage boy killed both his parents, and severely injured his siblings, several years ago. This family could not get any help from authorities or physicians, because the boy "had not actually harmed them" YET. The Soloist is a hauntingly beautiful, deeply moving story of a gifted musician who is unable to make health, cleanliness or other basic choices in life. Therefore he is "free". But everyone around him, everyone who loves him is TRAPPED in a vicious cycle of needing to help him, of continuing to hope, and of fighting the illusion that he CAN be helped. Nathaniel Ayers life has VALUE. God created Nathaniel. God created our sweet daughter. What we learned, over many, many years, is that God also created these special people to be adults, in whatever shape or form that is. And that God releases us, as their parents, as their caretakers, to also take care of ourselves. I fear that our society and our nation have not done well by those who truly need help the most, and cannot help themselves, while continuing to subsidize those who are ABLE BODIED. And the answers are not simple. But they are WORTH seeking.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Collinsville, VA, United States 12-25-10
    Laura Collinsville, VA, United States 12-25-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Pretty interesting."

    I loved the movie but I had a hard time getting through the audiobook. It is an interesting true story, but kind of long-winded and repetitive at times.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    girorv montreal, QC, Canada 12-14-14
    girorv montreal, QC, Canada 12-14-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Someone get the scissors , please."

    This is actually a 2 hr book. Oh, he managed to keep me listening , as I waited for a climax to this story, but I was disappointed. It plods along. It was with a sense of relief that it ended. Even the author seemed happy to have it over with. Maybe...that was the point of this whole exercise. How much , as we do for others ,are we actually doing for ourselves ? The book was very well read, without that, I would not have made it through.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MEMcL Carlsbad, CA 07-26-14
    MEMcL Carlsbad, CA 07-26-14 Member Since 2003
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    "A very well-done book."

    This was a "special" on Audible, and when I started to read it, I wasn't sure that I would like it. After all, the description of the book pretty much tells the whole story. Except that it doesn't.

    The writing by Steve Lopez is so non-judgemental of this musical prodigy. He is able to describe in a very benign manner the oft bizarre Nathaniel Ayres and his life living on the streets of LA and coping with schizophrenia, somehow making sense of his behavior. It was touching and insightful, and a very enjoyable listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cheryl 06-13-14
    Cheryl 06-13-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Brilliant!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Soloist the most enjoyable?

    The story was remarkable.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Soloist?

    The most memorable moment was when Mr. Lopez went back to Nathaniel after he threatened his life.


    Which character – as performed by William Hughes – was your favorite?

    My favorite character, as performed by William Hughes, was Mr. Lopez.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I was moved when Yo-yo Ma put his arm around Nathaniel and said they were brothers.


    Any additional comments?

    I rarely revisit a book twice, but I'll keep this one on my list for a second go.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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