ISBN #: 978-1937698539
Page Count: 378
Copyright: March 10, 2012
Publisher: Telemachus Press, LLC
(Taken from Amazon as written by Kirkus Reviews)
Discovery Award 2012, First Place, Literary Fiction
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.
The Angry Woman Suite is a complex and moving story told from three different perspectives as it slowly unravels the mystery surrounding the Grayson family over several decades and generations. Every family has a skeleton in their closet, but the Graysons have several. Aidan, who is connected to the family, is just as much of a part of their history as he knows the secrets and shares in some of the guilt associated with them. The Angry Woman Suite is a series of paintings, with Magdalene Grayson as its subject. Why these paintings are so important is key to the main mystery of the story. Here's a brief who's who in the story, although this is not everyone:
Magdalene, central to the story, she is the woman in the Angry Woman Suite
Lothian, Magdalene's sister, she holds resentment over the past events
Stella, Magdalene's sister, physically deformed, hidden by her family
Francis, Magdalene's son, one of the narrators in the story
Elyse, Francis' daughter, one of the narrators in the story
Lear, father of Magdalene, Lothian and Stella
Elizabeth, mother of Magdalene, Lothian and Stella
Other Central Characters:
Aidan Madsen, one of the narrators in the story
Matthew Waterson, artist, painted the Angry Woman Suite
Jaime Waterson, Matthew's son, a musician
I have to say, the writing in this book is superb. I'd expect to see this book in a Barnes & Noble right next to the other books that have "made it" - it's that good. The characters are fully rounded, full of emotion and flaws, and the plot is so intricate that only a master of the craft could pull it off. This is a book I would get completely lost in as I turned each page. I could perfectly picture the Grayson house, the paintings, all the action within. At almost 400 pages, it took me a long time to read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I closed the book after reading the last words, I sat quietly for a few moments, emotions washing through me. I was moved in a way I was not expecting.
My only nitpick about this book: I thought the cover was a little bit amateurish, especially because it represents what is supposed to be part of a very valuable art collection. And given the high quality of the writing within, I think the book deserves better.
You will not regret reading The Angry Woman Suite. Grab a copy and prepare to enter the world of the Graysons. And major publishers - please sign Lee Fullbright to a big-time deal! I look forward to seeing more great work from this author.
*A paperback copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.