Lucy's story opens with the death of Gus's longtime piano teacher, which not only ushers in Will, the new piano teacher, but also dredges up memories of her grandmother's death eight months before. Wound up in these traumatic events are the complicated feelings Lucy has for her mother and especially her grandfather, who is rigid, demanding, and will accept nothing less than perfection. He rules the household, hires the piano teachers, and basically makes everyone feel like they're not good enough.
Lucy's friendship with Will is complicated. Lucy is sixteen, Will twice her age, and her schoolgirl crush on him only muddies the waters more. He's trying to help her figure out what she wants to do in terms of music, and they develop a friendship, which ends up affecting their other relationships in unexpected ways.
I love Sara Zarr a whole lot, but put off reading this book because I get rather bored with stories about prodigies. (I skimmed that chapter in Far From the Tree.) But of course it's not just about Lucy's musical career - it's about her family and how she deals with her grandmother's death, and her relationships with her friends, and the way she is finally trying to separate her feelings about music from her feelings about the pressure put on her to play music. I came to like her a great deal and felt bad that someone so young is already struggling to figure out the direction of her career.
The audiobook was narrated by the author, and I mostly enjoyed it. Some parts included music, which was usually classical pretty nice. But in a couple of spots it was pop music, once even including vocals. An audiobook is no place for vocals, and I had to struggle to focus on Zarr's narration with singing in the background. That was a poor choice, but luckily it was only once and fairly brief.
The Lucy Variations wasn't my favorite Sara Zarr novel (that is still Sweethearts!) but not only am I glad I finally read it (well, listened to it), it even kind of made me want to learn more about classical music.