Author: Lee Fullbright
Publish Date: March 10, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.
Why You're Reading This Book:
- You're a fiction fan.
- You're a fan of family stories.
From Goodreads.com: "Secrets and lies suffuse generations of one Pennsylvania family, creating a vicious cycle of cruelty in this historical novel that spans the early 1900s to the 1960s. 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. A superb debut that exposes the consequences of the choices we make and legacy's sometimes excruciating embrace."
My Two Cents:
This book mostly centers around Francis even though the story is told from three different points of view. There is Francis, the son of a family that has way more than its share of secret and who grows up being abused by the women in his household. There is Elyse, Francis' young step-daughter who becomes the focus of the continuation of the abuse in the family. Then there is Aidan, a teacher who becomes involved with the Grayson family.
Some parts of the book were really hard to read. The parts where Lothian, Francis' aunt who is totally crazy and delusional, was abusing Francis were especially hard to read. I felt bad during this part of the book for Francis because the other women in the household know that Lothian is nuts but they do nothing to keep her away from Francis even though they can see who she thinks Francis is. That was never really explained well.
I had a hard time understanding why Francis perpetuates the abuse by continuing it with Elyse. He seems to know that Lothian is nuts with the things that she says to him and he seems to realize that he doesn't deserve the abuse. It seems that he should have realized a lot earlier that what he was doing was wrong. I didn't really understand his motivation. Was he just following what was done to him?
Fullbright does a great job of keeping the voices of the different narrators separate, which can be really hard to do.
Bottom line: Readers who like multi-generational stories and mysteries will enjoy this book.