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2016 TBR Pile Challenge: Bellweather Rhapsody

September really does feel like a chance to get things right again, doesn’t it? Which is why it seems like a great time to try and catch up on the Unofficial 2016 TBR Pile Challenge!

I read Thunderstruck earlier this month and then put a hold on Bellweather Rhapsody at the library. It was ready for me the same day and I started it right away.

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Kate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody is awesome. It starts on November 13, 1982 when Millie is an unwilling 12-year-old bridesmaid in her sister’s wedding. After photos, she wanders off in the hotel and finds herself outside room 712 which is where she witnesses the murder-suicide of a bride and groom on their wedding day.

Fifteen years later, Rabbit and Alice Hatmaker are at the same hotel for the Statewide music festival, an opportunity for gifted highschool students to make music and perform. Rabbit is thinking about using the weekend to tell his twin that he’s gay; Alice sees the weekend, her second year at Statewide, as a chance to shine even brighter. On the first night, Alice’s roommate, a celebrated and famous teenaged flautist and daughter of the interim director of the festival (the most terrifying woman ever), disappears from room 712.

I was genuinely delighted to find that the disappearance/mystery aspect of this book was secondary to the character development. Racculia’s characters are bananas – in the best possible way. Rabbit and Alice are a great one-two punch of siblinghood: Alice refers to herself as the “bad twin”, the one that is loud and will totally cut you if you mess with her brother, Rabbit is more staid, the one focused on his music who is terrified about coming out and what the next phase of his life will look like. Then there is Viola, the interim director who inspires fear in all who meet her and has left a string of misery in her wake; Natalie, the Hatmakers’ chaperone, reeling from an event in the not-too-distant past, still coming to terms with the role of music in her own life; the eccentric conductor Fisher, intent on pushing the kids to greatness while grappling with his own genius; and Hastings, the concierge still running things at the Bellweather despite plummeting guest rates and a hotel that is visibly crumbling around him.

These characters are all struggling with ideas of identity and their place in the world. For most of them, their talent is a platform for greatness but it’s also a burden as they try to reach their potential. For the adults, that decision about whether to pursue their talent or not, has already been made and now they have to make peace with that. This book was unexpectedly moving as the mystery moves off centre stage, giving the characters the space to work through their demons.

But Racculia doesn’t forget about the mystery that she teased you with and all is revealed in a most satisfying way. The full ramifications of what happened aren’t felt until years later but the payoff meant a few tears from this reader.

If you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading Bellweather Rhapsody and you love eccentric characters, pop culture references and a dash of mystery, I’d recommend this to you!