The Return - Brad Boney If the blurb on this book had explained a little more about the storyline, I might not have picked this up, but I'm glad I did. Having enjoyed [b:The Nothingness of Ben|16125587|The Nothingness of Ben|Brad Boney||21920750]and being a huge music and Springsteen fan, this was high on my list. It can be read as a standalone book, but I suggest reading Ben first as there are hints and threads in that book that are picked up and finished here.

It is hard to explain the storyline without giving away what is really going on , but if you really need to know what you are getting into the book is about reincarnation/channeling the spirit of someone who died with unfinished business and Topher is that reincarnation of Hutch/Chris and his bandmates are Hutch's best friends, all of whom died of AIDS in the 80's and we also get the explanation of the past history of Ben and Travis that was referred to in TNoB. The bare bones of it is the story is told in alternating chapters between Stanton's current relationship with Topher and his relationship with Hutch in the early 1980's. Stanton is a music critic for NPR and he meets Topher, mechanic by day/musician by night, when his car breaks down in Austin during the SXSW Festival. As a thank you for a ride, Stanton takes Topher to the Springsteen concert and during Thunder Road, Topher has a strange experience and acts on the sudden urge to kiss Stanton, even though Topher is not gay. Add this to the phantom ringing of Topher's phone with no one there and the phone not responding, as well as Stanton's prior connection to the song, and we know something different is happening.

The story of Stanton and Hutch parallels Stanton and Topher's story. Integral to this is Stanton's best friend Marvin, the men they meet on Fire Island in the 80's, as well as Topher's bandmates and the Walsh family from The Nothingness of Ben. They are all connected in unexpected and extraordinary ways.

While the underlying theme is something I generally would not care to explore in a book (just a personal preference), the characters and writing really drew me in. This is a story of music, friendship, love and second chances. While the ending was almost fairytale happy, the book had me laughing and crying and as someone who remembers the 80's well and loves music I couldn't resist.