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Extended Audio Sample Last Night at the Blue Angel: A Novel, by Rebecca Rotert Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Rebecca Rotert Narrator: Andrus Nichols, Caitlin Davie Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s Chicago jazz scene, a highly ambitious and stylish literary debut that combines the atmosphere and period detail of Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility with the emotional depth and drama of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, about a talented but troubled singer, her precocious ten-year-old daughter, and their heartbreaking relationship.

It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is a city of uneasy tensions—segregation, sexual experimentation, free love, the Cold War—but it is also home to one of the country’s most vibrant jazz scenes. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. Finally, her big break arrives—the cover of Look magazine. But success has come at enormous personal cost. Beautiful and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet extremely self-destructive woman whose charms are irresistible and dangerous for those around her. No one knows this better than Sophia, her clever ten-year-old daughter.

For Sophia, Naomi is the center of her universe. As the only child of a single, unconventional mother, growing up in an adult world, Sophia has seen things beyond her years and her understanding. Unsettled by her uncertain home life, she harbors the terrible fear that the world could end at any moment, and compulsively keeps a running list of practical objects she will need to reinvent once nuclear catastrophe strikes. Her one constant is Jim, the photographer who is her best friend, surrogate father, and protector. But Jim is deeply in love with Naomi—a situation that adds to Sophia’s anxiety.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, their powerful and wrenching story unfolds in layers, revealing Sophia’s struggle for her mother’s love with Naomi’s desperate journey to stardom and the colorful cadre of close friends who shaped her along the way.

Sophisticated yet poignant, Last Night at the Blue Angel is an unforgettable tale about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. It is a story ripe with surprising twists and revelations, and an ending that is bound to break your heart.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Filled with music and memory, humor and poetry, Last Night at the Blue Angel is about the burdens of the past and the sometimes unrealistic promise of the future. You’ll carry these characters around in your head long after you finish this exuberant, big-hearted novel.”

    Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

  • “Gorgeously written…a clear-eyed account of the human damage that great artistry can leave in its wake.”

    Jean Thompson, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Rebecca Rotert traces the difficult contours of love and devotion—a fame-bound singer desperate to change her life, and her daughter, Sophia, who’ll risk anything to stay in her mother’s marred circle of light. Luminous and deeply affecting, this book swept me along and stole my heart.”

    Paula McLain, New York Times bestelling author of The Paris Wife

  • “An unflinching coming-of-age novel that draws us deep into the lives of indelible characters while also telling us the broader story of a time and place.”

    Marisa Silver, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Filled with surprises both marvelous and shocking. As the story weaves back and forth in time, spinning out the lives and dreams of a mother and a daughter, the language itself sings in moments of poignant beauty.”

    Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of City of Light

  • “[A] delicious debut…While Naomi may perform on stage, it is her daughter Sophia who steals the show and gives this novel its considerable heart.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “[An] engaging debut…Rotert has composed a soulful and touchingly sad mother-daughter blues that lingers after it’s over.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Sophia Hill can take her place proudly beside such affecting child narrators as Francie Nolan of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird…an engaging story.”

    Omaha World-Herald

  • “It is hard to believe that Last Night at the Blue Angel is Rebecca Rotert’s debut, as it simply shimmers with feeling. Her range of emotional evocation and ability to touch a reader so fiercely with beautiful words makes the book a pure pleasure to read.”


  • “A solid debut that throws a curve ball at the end, Rotert’s novel sprinkles passion, determination, and struggle into its chapters…The story shifts nicely from Naomi and her daughter Sophia’s point of view, allowing all details to fall into place.”

    RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

  • “Rotert’s musical background informs Naomi’s passion for performance, but it is her heartbreaking portrait of Sophie, so wise yet so vulnerable, that readers will remember long after the final page.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “With lush prose and well-drawn characters, this heartbreaking novel of love, loss, and the redemptive power of music also offers a satisfying glimpse of Chicago at a pivotal point in history.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Rotert has created a complicated and engaging heroine in Sophia, a memorable character portrait which is her book’s most striking aspect.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “One of the most evocative renderings of a child’s precocity and appreciativeness in the face of a mother’s distracted self-absorption—and how it actually feels to be in thrall to someone else’s happiness—since Mona Simpson’s Anywhere But Here.”

    Jim Shepard, author of Like You’d Understand, Anyway

  • “A fascinating and extraordinarily moving first novel populated by complex, sympathetic characters and told in such gorgeous, poetic prose that you’ll frequently stop to linger over the sentences. Rebecca Rotert is the real deal. It doesn’t happen that often.”

    Ron Hansen, author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

  • “Andrus Nichols and Caitlin Davies share the narration of this mother-daughter story, set primarily in Chicago in 1965. Nichols infuses her performance with a soft, dreamy quality, which is appropriate for jazz singer Naomi’s memories of the postwar years, when she was forced to face the consequences of acting on her instincts. Davies’ performance is more lively, befitting the chapters told from the perspective of ten-year-old Sophia. These two different approaches work well together, emphasizing the contrast between the ambitious yet dependent Naomi and the more practical but fearful Sophia as they face an uncertain future and prepare for Naomi’s last gig at a run-down club. Listeners will be fully engaged by this story of church, sexuality, the pursuit of art, and the meaning of family.”


  • A Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice
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About the Author

Rebecca Rotert received an MA in literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her poetry and essays have appeared in a range of magazines and journals. She’s an accomplished singer and songwriter, and has performed with several bands. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. 

About the Narrator

Andrus Nichols is a stage actress who has worked extensively in off-Broadway and off off–Broadway productions as well as regional theater and Shakespearean drama. She is also a singer and voice artist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in literature at Bard College and her MSW at the University at Albany, State University of New York.