The year is 1988 and 18-year-old Luna Kane’s great-grandfather is on his deathbed on a frigid night in North Carolina.
The scene is dim: the fire crackles, terse prayers flow, and her great-grandfather proclaims to hear the wispy melodic sounds of owls crying in the night. As he takes his final breaths, the present trauma jars Luna into her past — a dark past in which her Led Zeppelin-obsessed mother, Claudia, committed suicide when Luna was only nine years old.
Claudia, whose bedroom smelled of lavender incense and whose walls were covered in posters of Jimmy Page. Claudia, who attended a Led Zeppelin concert around the same time that Luna was conceived, and who subsequently believed that Jimmy was sending her veiled messages through song lyrics.
As the book reads:
“I didn’t know memory came in colors, that it could pulsate through your body in fulgent shades of red and orange, then fade like jeans to dusky blue. Or that the word, swirling in the back of your throat, tasted like rusted metal, like the corroded bicycle rack I’d once kissed on a grammar school dare. I didn’t know it could take the form of fire and water, or whirl and twirl and churl inside the song blasting through my stereo speakers.
The traveling of subterranean spaces…
I pressed my palms against my cheeks. I felt my head expand and grow light. Light as a feather, stiff as a board. How amazing to fly and still remain on terra firma.”
The repressed memories hit already-troubled Luna like a ton of bricks, and implored her to face two questions she had been hiding from for years — why did her mom kill herself and who is her father?
Certainly, it couldn’t be Jimmy Page — lead guitarist of Led Zeppelin with a once-reputation for being a philandering rock god. Or could it? With a head full of questions and no one to turn to for answers, Luna packs her bags and heads to England — searching for the truth and searching for Jimmy Page.
At times as soft and poetic as Going to California or The Rain Song, and other times as raunchy and full of angst as Black Dog and The Lemon Song, Searching For Jimmy Page is a coming-of-age tale that, whether you’re a die-hard Led Zeppelin fan or not, will take you back into your sharp and inquisitive adolescence. A time when you were too old to believe in fairy tales but too young not to chase them anyway. As Hallberg guides us through Luna’s quest for answers, oftentimes through the lens of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, it’s easy to relate to her strong sense of youthful indignation.
Though I’ve never flown to England and knocked on Jimmy Page’s door, this novel is full of rock n’ roll-inspired sites and trivia, and for that, it spoke to my soul. As someone who has traipsed the globe in search of sites of musical significance, I felt like I was in Luna’s shoes throughout much of this novel.
To see the stairwell that inspired Stairway to Heaven, to visit Jimmy Page’s Tower House and Old Mill House, and to speak with people who know the musicians personally. Swoon.
And though I’ve never sought him out to question any kind of relation, I have met Jimmy Page. In the novel, as Hallberg describes Luna’s VIP ticket to witness a guitar competition judged by Jimmy Page, Brian May, and Pete Shelley, I was thrown back into myself at 24 years old with a VIP pass in hand and a wildly beating heart. The day I met Jimmy Page.
It was July 21st, 2015, a hot summer’s day, and I had been working at Warner Music Canada in Toronto, one of the “big three” record labels, for a few years. I knew Jimmy Page was in town because I heard my boss talking about how he was ushering him to various media junkets and radio stations around town in promotion of the Coda, In Through the Out Door, and Presence album remasters. My boss knew I was a huge Led Zeppelin fan, so when the invitation landed on my desk to attend the listening party of the remasters that evening at the Masonic Temple, I floated right out of my body.
The listening party was in The Red Room of the temple. Lush scarlet curtains lined the mahogany walls, and thrones and crosses were casual parts of the decor. Prior to the listening party, I descended the stairs of the temple to the basement, where Jimmy was in a green room awaiting my and my colleague’s arrival — a label meet and greet if you will. We all stood in a dark hallway and shook hands with him one by one. I remember his hair just as white and skin just as smooth and Luna’s present-day description of him in the novel (the title for which scene is aptly titled ‘Coda’).
However, unlike my fleeting encounter, Luna’s quest for the Led Zeppelin guitarist leads her to discover truths she hadn’t yet realized were a part of her. Through her pursuit, she’s able to finally confront the death of her mother and realize that sometimes life is more questions than answers.
More than a novel about a young girl on her way to meet a rock star, Searching for Jimmy Page is about hard truths, understanding where we come from, grief and loss, keeping space for life’s curveballs, and the friends we meet along the way. It’s about understanding that sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we need and that the biggest journey of all is that of self-discovery.
If you’re a Led Zeppelin fan, Searching for Jimmy Page will delight you with lyrics, trivia nuggets, and endless zeitgeist. If you’re new to Led Zeppelin, this novel may be the catalyst to dive in deeper, or to at least remember what it was like to be 18 years old and searching for yourself.
A special thanks to Christy Alexander Hallberg, who gifted me an advance copy of Searching for Jimmy Page in exchange for this review. The novel will be available for purchase on October 20, 2021. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.