Bellweather Rhapsody

I’ve talked before about how I like reading seasonal books–scary things at Halloween, spring-time-ish books as winter is ending–and I think Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia would be an excellent addition to an autumn/winter reading list. It’s creepy, sort of dark, and definitely wintery–the kind of book that makes you want to wrap up in a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate.

The story takes place over a few days in the Bellweather, an once glorious but now shabby upstate New York that is hosting a high school all-state band event. Over-achieving teenagers, their tired chaperones, ambitious conductors, and harried hotel staff are already bracing for the event when things get derailed by a blizzard and the mysterious disappearance of a student. Hanging over this is all is the hotel’s past–it was once the site of a tragic murder-suicide where a bride killed her new husband and herself on her wedding day.  Rather than seeing all this from one point of view, the action is narrated by a whole list of characters including, but not limited to, twin high school student named Alice and Rabbit Hatmaker who each have their own talents and secrets, their music teacher who has a complicated past of her own, the hotel caretaker who cannot quite believe what is happening to his beloved Bellweather, and a guest who has come to the hotel to face her demons.

Racculia manages a neat balance in that the book feels big and sprawling with all the character threads weaving in and out, but at the same time has a sense of claustrophobia as everyone is trapped in this one old hotel that does not feel particularly welcoming. But this isn’t a horror novel, as much as the trapped-in-a-hotel piece makes it sound like The Shining, and it’s not a traditional mystery, even if the central question of the book is what happened to the disappeared student. Instead, it felt more like reading a modern Dickens novel. Characters and back stories and coincidences and problems kept piling up and up and I kept getting more nervous, trying to figure out how it was all going to resolve. But I did find the ultimate ending gratifying, maybe because I was surprised by the outcomes of many of the characters–narrators I thought were reliable turned out not be, people I initially hated started to endear themselves to me, someone I was desperately worried about pulled herself through and out the other side, that sort of thing.

It’s not exactly heartwarming, and it’s not exactly funny, and it’s not exactly scary, but it sure made me want to keep reading to figure out how it was all going to end.

Kinsey’s Three Word Review: Quirky, creepy, and satisfying.

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This reminded me of Skippy Dies and The Lonely Polygamist, although Bellweather Rhapsody is kinder than either of those. But more than anything else, this made me think of Fargo–both the original movie and the recent TV series adaptation. They all share something in the matter-of-fact way that bizarre people and things are presented.

4 comments on “Bellweather Rhapsody

  1. I read this book on your recommendation and loved it. I found it heartwarming, funny, and scary. Also music nerds. Two thumbs up.

  2. Anna says:

    Oh, man, I just finished this book, and it was so good that I started reading slower at the end in order to stretch it out more, which is something I only very rarely do.

    • Kinsey says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! I felt it set up what could have been pretty predictable characters, and then had them all do things that were surprising, but realistic.

      • Anna says:

        Yes! I couldn’t predict a single thing that happened, but after each reveal, it would then totally make sense. This might end up being one of my favorite books for this year.

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