In Bellweather Rhapsody*, her second novel, Kate Racculia conjures up a tale of conductors, students, chaperones, guests, and hotel staff thrown together at a statewide high school music festival — at a very creepy hotel in 1997 upstate New York. Everyone has a secret, no-one’s being completely honest, and there’s a snowstorm coming.
Then a girl goes missing from Room 712 — the same room where a murder-suicide took place fifteen years earlier, and those secrets aren’t safe anymore.
Bellweather Rhapsody is a piquant mixture of genres and tones — mystery, comedy, bildungsroman, thriller — which together form a perfectly seasoned piece of literary fiction. It’s that rare kind of novel that captures not only what it’s like to be a teenager on the verge of adulthood, but also what it’s like to be an adult and wonder if you’re getting it all wrong.
The characters are unforgettable: Rabbit Hatmaker, a shy bassoonist; Alice, his diva-like twin sister; their chaperone Mrs. Wilson, who has a gun and might have used it once; Fisher Brodie, Scottish conductor who once was a piano virtuoso and now comes across as rather mad; Minnie, a young woman still reeling from the traumatic events she witnessed years before, comforted now only by her deaf dog and horror movies; Mr. Hastings, a genteel concierge who remembers the Bellweather in her glory days; and Viola Fabian, a Lady Macbeth-style sociopath — with a daughter.
As its title suggests, Bellweather Rhapsody is about not only the characters gathered under the hotel’s roof, but also about music itself, and its strange power. Ms. Racculia clearly loves music and understands it. Her descriptions of the experience of music — hearing it, playing it — are thrilling in their accuracy. If you’ve ever lost your breath listening to Holst or Beethoven or Debussy, this book is for you. And if you haven’t, read this book, and you will.
(Bonus: Delightful and sly 90s references!)
Friday: An interview with Kate Racculia, author of Bellweather Rhapsody
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.