"Raised in a crumbling New England mansion by four women with personalities as split as a cracked mirror, young Francis Grayson has an obsessive need to fix them all. There's his mother, distant and beautiful Magdalene; his disfigured, suffocating Aunt Stella; his odious grandmother; and the bane of his existence, his abusive and delusional Aunt Lothian. For years, Francis plays a tricky game of duck and cover with the women, turning to music to stay sane. He finds a friend and mentor in Aidan Madsen, schoolmaster, local Revolutionary War historian, musician and keeper of the Grayson women's darkest secrets. In a skillful move by Fullbright, those secrets are revealed through the viewpoints of three different people-Aidan, Francis and Francis' stepdaughter, Elyse-adding layers of eloquent complexity to a story as powerful as it is troubling. While Francis realizes his dream of forming his own big band in the 1940s, his success is tempered by the inner monster of his childhood, one that roars to life when he marries Elyse's mother. Elyse becomes her stepfather's favorite target, and her bitterness becomes entwined with a desire to know the real Francis Grayson. For Aidan's part, his involvement with the Grayson family only deepens, and secrets carried for a lifetime begin to coalesce as he seeks to enlighten Francis-and subsequently Elyse-of why the events of so many years ago matter now. The ugliness of deceit, betrayal and resentment permeates the narrative, yet there are shining moments of hope, especially in the relationship between Elyse and her grandfather. Ultimately, as more of the past filters into the present, the question becomes: What is the truth, and whose version of the truth is correct? Fullbright never untangles this conundrum, and it only adds to the richness of this exemplary novel." Kirkus Reviews
In her Indie Reader Discovery Award winning book Lee Fullbright brings to us what I feel is essentially a book about secrets. The secrets the hold us together and tear us apart. The secrets that build lifetimes of regret and dysfunction, the secrets that define us.
Combining both historical elements and an engaging and complicated story line, Ms. Fullbright brings us literary fiction at it's best. This is not a book you delve into expecting a light read. To me the most engaging and captivating character in this book was Francis Grayson. He embodied brilliance and sorrow in a seamless mixture of of the character you love to hate. He had redeeming qualities, you just had to dig really deep to find them. His abusive and delusional upbringing brought him to his savior, and the central character of the book, Aiden Madsen. It is through Aiden we get the most information of just who Francis was and where he came from. It is thorough Aiden we form our opinions of his character. And we learn that Aiden's character can be just as suspect.
Using a technique that can be hard to sell, switching between the point of view of three main story tellers, Fullbright is able to give us a much broader look at her characters and their motives. Also important to note is the wide historical base Fullbright covers. From the Revolutionary War era, the first world war, the Great Depression and finally the turbulent 70's we can see how each moment in time effects the characters.
This book was impeccably researched and written. It's complicated story line flows smoothly and allows the reader to be immersed in it's world without feeling forced. It was in your face honest, had venomous characters,(characters you loved to hate), and I felt sorry for everyone of the main protagonists. I would recommend this book to both historical fiction fans and fans of literary fiction. I absolutely loved this book and it's certainly a keeper for my bookshelf.
To find out more about Lee Fullbright visit her blog Rooms of Our Own. Her book can be found on Amazon.com.
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About the author:
Lee Fullbright is a fourth-generation Californian, raised and educated in San Diego. She is a medical practice consultant and lives on San Diego’s beautiful peninsula with her twelve-year-old Australian cattle dog, Baby Rae. The Angry Woman Suite, a Kirkus Critics’ Pick and Discovery Award winner, is her debut novel. Connect with Lee on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or GoodReads.