Peter Ames Carlin's Bruce is a panoramic account of the life of the intensely gifted artist and charismatic performer Bruce Springsteen that takes readers on a rambling road trip, beginning with the musician's unremarkable childhood in Freehold, N.J., and passing through the many fits and starts, which were frequently mirrored in his personal life, up the hill to superstardom.

The often balladic tales surrounding the history of the legendary E Street Band are included with a perfect balance of fact and flourish. Carlin notes that some of the stories--such as the dramatic account of the late Clarence Clemons's arrival--seem somewhat far-fetched, but serve to underscore the almost spiritual transition from dissonance to harmony achieved in the band's coming together. That harmony was not constant, however, and Carlin draws heavily on exclusive interviews with Springsteen and his band members, who speak candidly about the strain caused by their break with Springsteen in 1989 and their subsequent reunion nearly a decade later.

Carlin's painstaking research into Springsteen's life and career is so vividly detailed that if the reader listens closely, he can almost hear the music pouring out of every page. Carlin shows us how, for more than 40 years, Springsteen's brilliant lyrics have not only told the story of his life, but also marked the time in American culture. Such depth and reverence for his subject matter make this earnest profile a must read. --Sarah Borders, librarian at Houston Public Library

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