This powerful novel begins just after the main character, Joss Moody, a famous trumpet player, passes away. It is immediately apparent that big news surrounds his death as paparazzi drive his widow, Millie, to steal away to a vacation home. Soon after, the reader learns that the big news is that Joss was actually born female. No one knew this shocking truth except his wife. Not even Colman, the Moodys' adopted son, knew the truth. The Moodys lived their life as a normal married couple with a normal house and a normal family. But when Joss dies they can hide the truth no longer. Colman's shock spills into bitterness and he seeks revenge. He vents his rage of his father's lie by uncovering Joss's life to Sophie, an eager tabloid journalist craving to write the next bestseller. After time, and a visit to Joss's mother Edith Moore, Colman eventually finds love for his father muddled in his rage. With his new-found acceptance of both his father and himself, Colman makes the decision not to follow through with the book deal. All the while, Millie deals with her grief and the scandal in private turmoil at the Moodys' vacation home, and a slew of characters whose paths have crossed with Joss's give accounts of their memories and experiences. Interestingly, all the characters seem either to accept Joss's identity or to perceive it as irrelevant.
Explanation of the novel's title
The title Trumpet refers literally to the main character, Joss Moody's, instrument. Moody was an amazing trumpet player and became famous in the jazz world. Figuratively, it could be argued, the trumpet embodies more than Moody's fame. Moody's trumpet serves as an equalizer of identity. The character Joss Moody is not a man or a woman, or a husband or a father. He is a trumpet player. The title of the novel gives his identity the opportunity to be that simple. Additionally, Joss's trumpet functions as a phallic symbol that allows him to navigate being black and Scottish by inhabiting certain forms of black masculinity.