Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: May 13th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Humor, Mystery
Remember the movie The Shining? If so, forget what you thought about it in relation to Stephen King’s book and just recall its many amazing visuals. Now, turn it into a campy musical, turn it back into a novel and you have Kate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody. Set in the Catskills in early November with a grand old hotel about to be the scene, once again, for a huge conference of high school musicians and singers—hand-picked, the most promising talent from across the country—coming together to perform as one and hopefully catch the eye of either a talent scout or a recruiter from an elite conservatory. If the hotel alone doesn’t ring enough bells, how about the anniversary of a murder-suicide that took place fifteen years earlier in one of the rooms? Or that an unexpected snowstorm of epic proportions hits the area after everyone has arrived, effectively trapping them in the hotel?
Racculia is not a lazy writer looking to turn Bellweather Rhapsody into a band geek’s version of The Shining. Yes, cultural references abound in the novel, but there is also a concierge who is not quite what he seems, a traumatized young woman who witnessed the first murder while still a child, a fourteen-year-old flute prodigy, and Alice and Rabbit, the Hatmaker twins, a singer and bassoonist respectively. They’re just part of a cast that comes together with an abundance of personality, secrets and real life issues. Over the span of three days they careen off each other, bouncing apart but, when needed, coming back together.
Like any humorous fiction there is the potential to veer from funny into stupid, but throughout Bellweather Rhapsody Racculia stays on the right side of the line with a silliness that is vastly entertaining. For those of us who are finding reality a bit of a rough go right now the unpredictability and sheer fun of this novel is a much needed respite. Racculia throws her characters into a martini shaker with a splash of ingenious plot and shakes vigorously. All that’s left for the reader is to sit back and enjoy a lively, delicious literary concoction that refreshes to the last drop.
Many thanks to Eva at The Paperback Princess– her review of Bellweather Rhapsody as one of her favorite books from 2016 is what made me pick it up. I’m so grateful!