More from Kirkus Reviews:
“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
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Genre – Historical / Psychological Mystery
Rating – PG13
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by Lee Fullbright
I’m a fourth-generation Californian, and from birth we Californians are wired to play in the sun, to live in the moment. But while exploring the state of Pennsylvania some years back, I made an impromptu stop at the Chadds Ford house where George Washington had plotted his infamous Battle of the Brandywine—a battle the Continental Army lost—and in front of that old house something changed inside me.
Not only did I suddenly and passionately want to know everything about something old—what had happened in beautiful Chadds Ford over two hundred years ago—but I had a germ of an idea for a novel about 20th century characters also struggling for autonomy. In fact, I actually knew on that particular day that one of my characters would be a woman looking back on her life, and that her journey to freedom (in her case, freedom from a dysfunctional family) would be interwoven with another character’s similar journey, and analogously with Washington’s fight for freedom at Chadds Ford (keeping in mind that even though that battle was lost, the war was still won, and spectacularly—terrible cliché, but it works).
Doesn’t sound that hard, does it, buckling down to research and a regular writing schedule? Well, I wish I could tell you I slipped smoothly into historical research, but I’d be a big, fat liar saying I slipped smoothly into anything. I struggled to find my way, to find a balance somewhere in-between research, writing, a fulltime job, house, husband, dog, friends, extended family, my workout schedule—and sleep! It wasn’t always pretty. And without sleep I wasn’t much to look at, either.
And then there were those days when I was sure I was a total idiot, even thinking I could pull together a historical suspense story told by different narrators in divergent times— that is, until my husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness—which is where that word analogy comes back into play.
My husband (called DDF) always believed in me. If I said I was going to do something, I don’t think he ever, ever doubted me (if he did, he never let on). He wanted The Angry Woman Suite as much as I did—and so it was DDF who inspired my final push. I was determined to get a completed bound book into his hands before he died.
And it happened just that way. The Angry Woman Suite, a story about losing before winning, and a Discovery Award winner, was in DDF’s hands in March of 2012. He wasn’t able to read by that point, but he turned that book over and over in his hands, and he smiled BIG.
DDF died a month and a half later. The Angry Woman Suite is, of course, dedicated to him.