Saturday, September 15, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: The Angry Woman Suite by Lee Fullbright

Release Date: March 10th, 2012
Publisher: Telemachus Press 
Page Count: 366
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

When overbearing former big band star Francis Grayson mentions the "murdering bitches" who supposedly ruined his life, his resentful stepdaughter Elyse — always on the lookout for simple dirt on Francis — takes note. Intertwining narrative with Francis, Elyse stumbles across glimmers of big murder instead of simple dirt, while Francis moves perspective of his "bitches" back to the 1930's, to his childhood in Pennsylvania. His coming-of-age story centers on a mysterious painting and search for the artist who he believes can fix his feuding family. Aiding him in his quest is his mother's lover, Aidan Madsen, who not only mentors Francis' music career, but knows everything about two murders implicating the women in Francis's family. The three narrators of The Angry Woman Suite — Elyse, Francis, and Aidan — weave together a picture of two disturbed families who meet their match in the young, determined-to-survive Elyse Grayson, and human-to-a-fault hero, Aidan Madsen.
What Stephanie Thinks: They say there are multiple sides to every story, but what do you do when you hear all of them at once? How do you know which one to believe?

The Angry Woman Suite introduces us to our three tragic heros: Elyse, a young girl who's always just wanted to know to love and be loved; Francis, her stepfather, who's always been too good, too good for even himself; and Aidan, confidante to both Elyse and Francis, the epitome of both wisdom and weakness. Readers are exposed to Elyse's terrifying and beseeching childhood, and the even-more disturbing upbringing of Francis, which allows us to understand how he has turned out the way he is, and just how that might affect his future. The different perspectives are fascinating to stick with and attempt to unravel. What makes this book stand out the most is that we don't only have an unreliable narrator; we've got three. 

Elyse's story is the most believable just because her voice is so fresh, so wholesome, and it revolves around the confusion and uncertainty — and horror — she's felt ever since Francis came into her life. Francis's is even rawer and even more shocking, but it seems to be influenced greatly by his histrionics, which is plausible given how he is portrayed by both Elyse and Aidan. Aidan's is rather mellow, at least at first, but it ends up being the most deceitful, the most revealing, of all. He's such a sage, experienced character... or so we think. It was interesting to watch each character develop as time passed and memories faded.

Oftentimes I found the story's progression confusing because of the different situations and time periods of each narrator. Dates are included at the beginning of each chapter, but it still is hard to untangle the three separate storylines from each other. Too many characters are introduced in the beginning at once, which also contributes to the cloudiness of the plot initially. However, where The Angry Woman Suite is nebulous in structure, it is equally excellent in style. Fullbright has a tender, glimmering voice who knows how to portray each narrator differently, but still very vividly. I found myself being able to relate to each of the main characters, sympathizing with one, then contradicting myself by feeling for another.

A warning would be the book's heavy themes of child abuse. I personally found it tough reading through the more difficult scenes, but the topic is one I am intrigued by in fiction, and therefore could really appreciate. It may make some queasy.

The Angry Woman Suite would probably classify as a mystery, one that involves clandestine family histories, twisted relationships, pretense, ill timing, and a certain ironic sense of tragedy. The constantly swirling questions definitely made this one hard to put down, but at the same time, I was a bit turned off by the length (it dragged on at times) and the disorganized compilation. The characters however, are so real, so crude, that they, as well as their deepest of secrets and greatest of fears, will definitely resonate with readers who give them a try.

Stephanie Loves: "'They need to be exercised, hearts do ... to keep them strong.'"

Radical Rating: 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥