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
Read an excerpt:
“I’ll tell you what I’m ready for, Aidan. I’m ready for the top floor.” His eyebrows shot up.
“I beg your pardon?”
“The third floor of Grayson House. I’m ready for it. I’m really ready.”
“I don’t think I understand—”
“Please, Aidan.” I emphasized each word: “I’m ready to meet Jamie.”
I turned and walked out of that parlor then, and into the foyer and up the ten steps to the landing where the grand staircase turned direction. I ran up the first flight, then paused at the second landing, waiting for Aidan. When I glimpsed him behind me, I turned and ran up the next flight, to the third floor, straight for the door at the end of the hallway, next to the door that opened onto the outside stairs.
I’d been able to pinpoint this door as the one by the soft thumps I’d heard when I’d sneaked into Papa’s room on the second floor—things nobody thought I’d hear—and by watching from my spot across the road: the quick deliveries and arrivals, the things and people nobody thought I’d see.
I hesitated, not feeling anything, I was now so empty. No more anger. Instead I was in tune with senses: the steady tick-tock of the clock at the end of the otherwise soundless hallway, the wallpaper’s perfectly vertical stripe, even an aromatic odor reminiscent of the appendectomy I’d had when I was six—was it ether? And then, finally, Aidan’s ragged breathing when he caught up with me. We were ready, in position—and it was understood I’d assumed leadership: I’d go first.
I turned the doorknob. My opponent had just run through his resources.
REVIEW SOUND BYTES
From Kirkus Reviews
"Secrets and lies suffuse generations of one Pennsylvania family . . . in a skillful move by Fullbright, those secrets are revealed through the viewpoints of three very different people . . . a superb debut that exposes the consequences of the choices we make and legacy's sometimes excruciating embrace."
2012 DISCOVERY AWARD
GLOBAL E-BOOK AWARD NOMINEE
From Midwest Book Review:"A very human story . . . a fine read focusing on the long lasting dysfunction of family."
"There is something fascinating in labyrinthine plot twists, which is what we have here, and I must applaud Fullbright for her keen and magical ability to pull it off with such aplomb."-Norm Goldman, Montreal Books Examiner and Bookpleasures.com
5 Stars ***** Reviewed by Joana James for Readers Favorite: "The Angry Woman Suite is quite a ride . . . very cleverly written . . . an outstanding novel."
Rating: 5.0 stars Reviewed by Anne B. for Readers Favorite: "Lee Fullbright is master of characterization."
Rating: 5.0 stars Reviewed by Alice D. for Readers Favorite:"The Angry Woman Suite is a brilliant, complex, complicated story about talented, complicated people . . . this is a story to remember!"
This is one of those complicated novels in which everyone's life is intertwined, and not necessarily in a good way. Fulbright provides a cast of characters and their relationships in the beginning, to which you may have to refer while reading through all of the tales. Different characters take turns sharing their stories, revealing only enough information at a time to answer one little question, while creating a dozen more. This shows how intricately woven our lives can be with others', even if we didn't realize it.
It's also one of those novels that is filled with life lessons, especially if you are paying close attention. The advantage of the Kindle edition is that others have often already highlighted particular passages that they find meaningful. The words of wisdom are so clear and beautiful, though, that you will have no problem picking them out by yourself. Most of the observations come from Elyse's Papa.
And then there are the deeper lessons, that if you are not paying attention, you could miss. I think the biggest one for me is how everyone has a story and reason for who they are in the present day. You will find yourself detesting certain characters, based on the time of their lives that are being described and by whom they are being described. In the next section, you may hear from that character yourself, or from another character's point of view, and find yourself feeling sorry for him or her.
I think Francis is one of the perfect examples of this. I almost hated him when Elyse was talking about him as her father. He does horrible things to her and her family. But when Francis is sharing his own story, I actually liked him a lot. I better understood his confusion and the turmoil in his entire life. It just goes to show you that you should get to know someone better before making a strong judgment on their character, I think.
This book isn't one that you are going to sit down and devour all at once. It will require some commitment and some thinking and processing on your part. But it is worth the time and the effort.
Lee Fullbright, a medical practice consultant in her non-writing life, lives on San Diego’s beautiful peninsula with her writing partner, Baby Rae, a 12-year-old rescued Australian cattle dog with attitude.
The Angry Woman Suite, a Kirkus Critics’ pick, 5-starred Readers Favorite, and a Discovery Aware winner, is her first published novel.
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/fullbrightlee
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