When I started reading Grady Hendrix’s We Sold Our Souls I did not expect to end up crying at the end. Something about the premise had me expecting more comedy and less searing insight into the soul of the human condition. This is a book about a washed up metal guitarist going on an epic road trip to do… something to the former lead singer of her burnt out band. I went into it thinking I’d be getting whacky road trip hijinks, lots of metal-head in jokes, and maybe a tired cliché about rock stars who made a deal with the Crossroads Man.
Instead, this book is dark. The nods to metal-head lore are there, but they aren’t funny. Not like I expected anyway. What humor there is comes from a bleak and scary place. This isn’t a story about somebody who sold their soul for fame and fortune. This is a story about somebody who had their soul stolen. Maybe by the eternal, unending grind of a system built for profit instead of people. Maybe by something a little more specific.
We Sold Our Souls packs a lot of twists and turns into its road trip through the hell that every day America has become for a lot of people. It’s a hard book to talk about with spoiling anything. Throughout the story, it is never entirely clear who the villain is, or if a villain even exists. Perhaps Kris, the guitar playing burn-out protagonist, was robbed of something important. Perhaps she just can’t accept that she made some bad choices. Or maybe, like most of us, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
This book isn’t just a love-letter to metal. It’s an ode to all the music, all the art really, made for people who work hard and just barely get by. People with nothing to lose, who never had anything to start with, fill the pages. And everywhere Kris turns, she finds more people looking to exploit those who’re already beaten down.
Even if you aren’t a fan of metal or the broader styles of music associated with it, I think most people will find something to love in this book. The characters are all clearly defined, real as can be, portraits of people any one who’s ever struggled knows. If you want to read about someone who’s maybe almost a little too much like you struggling through something that’s maybe almost a little too real, this book is for you. If you want to read about heroic struggles against impossible, soul shattering odds, this is the book for you. For anyone who has ever felt like their world is just a little too small, the people “on top” just a little too powerful, for anyone who has ever felt like a sparrow fighting a mountain – one pebble at a time – I highly recommend this book.