The small Southern hamlet of Swan’s Knob is the home of Miss Wilma, the town’s resident piano teacher and organist. Not only does Miss Wilma play the organ and piano for church services, but also various town events such as weddings and funerals. Miss Wilma takes her piano teaching very seriously, and she’s good enough that her brightest pupil, James Moody, is in line for a music scholarship to Greensboro College.
Miss Wilma’s existence seems fairly quiet and peaceful, until the day she returns home to find her prodigal daughter Sarah and granddaughter Starling sitting on her front steps. The two of them newly arrived from Santa Fe with no prior notice, Miss Wilma is nonetheless happy to see them and counts their visit among her many blessings, while wondering at the same time just what exactly has precipitated this sudden visit. Starling is now ten years old; the last time Miss Wilma saw her she was only three.
Soon Sarah’s husband, Harper, follows Sarah to Swan’s Knob, arriving on the same night a local deputy is murdered. A suspect is arrested quickly, a long-haired Indian by the name of Jonah Branch who hitched a ride to Swan’s Knob with Harper and, unknown to him, had come to find Sarah. Suddenly Miss Wilma’s quiet existence is turned upside down by a love triangle within her very own home, incriminating photos in the mail, the attentions of a new suitor, and the urgent need to find the real killer.
Lynn York’s debut novel, The Piano Teacher seemingly starts out as more gentle Southern fiction. But it is much more than that; most of this novel occurs inside the heads of Miss Wilma, trying to make sense of what is going with her daughter while uncovering a murderer, and Sarah, who has come home to make a vital decision and needs to come to terms with her past before she can move on to her future. The Piano Teacher is a novel of awakening for not only Wilma and Sarah, but also Harper and Roy Swan, Wilma’s suitor. Swan’s Knob could easily generate a series as there are plenty of colorful characters in this small town. Readers will be on the lookout for more novels by Lynn York.