Andrea, already a promising and ambitious classical pianist at twelve, was diagnosed with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis that threatened not just her musical aspirations but her ability to live a normal life. As Andrea navigates the pain and frustration of coping with RA alongside the usual travails of puberty, college, sex, and just growing-up, she turns to music—specifically Franz Schubert's sonata in B-flat D960, and the one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein for strength and inspiration. The heartbreaking story of this mysterious sonata—Schubert’s last, and his most elusive and haunting—is the soundtrack of Andrea's story. Sonata is a coming of age story that explores a “Janus-head miracle”—Andrea's extraordinary talent and even more extraordinary illness—in a manner, reminiscent of Brain on Fire and Poster Child. Like the goshawk becomes a source of both devotion and frustration for Helen Macdonald in H Is for Hawk, so the piano comes to represent both struggle and salvation for Andrea in this extraordinary debut.
Andrea Avery holds an MFA from Arizona State University and teaches English in Phoenix. Her short pieces have been published in Real Simple, Ploughshares, and The Oxford American, among others, and she was a finalist in Glamour magazine’s annual essay contest. This is her first book.