Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia: A Mini-Review

In his earliest memories he was sitting on the floor in the family room, in front of the giant stereo his parents had bought themselves as a wedding present, his face pressed into the padded fabric of one speaker.  The fabric was prickly against his forehead but his nose fit perfectly into a little groove, and he could feel music spilling like molten gold through his entire body.  He’d sit back on his heels when the song was over and his father, an accountant and amateur drummer whose (still-unrealized) dream was to open a jazz club and coffee house, would say, “Order up!” and put another record on the turntable.  His favorite albums were by Earth, Wind, & Fire (syncopation made his brain feel like it was laughing) and Also sprach Zarathustra, its opening rumbling like an earthquake…For six month in 1984, he had asked his parents to play “Stairway to Heaven” instead of a bedtime story.

Kate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody is a quirky little gem of a novel.  I had put this on my TBR when it came out in 2014, but it soon got buried under an avalanche of other titles and I kind of forgot about it.  Then Gin Jenny of Reading the End wrote a post about it a few weeks ago, and likened it to my favorite childhood novel, Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game. That was all it took – I instantly perked up and ordered it from another library branch.18263667

I say this is a quirky novel because it’s kind of hard to categorize.  It’s part mystery, part meditation on the power of music, part moving story about loneliness and finding connection, between siblings and between strangers.  The main action takes place over a long weekend at a high school music festival at the Shining-esque Bellweather Hotel in Upstate New York.  It’s told from multiple perspectives, including Harold Hastings, the long-time concierge of the hotel, who’s emotionally and physically stuck in place and time, and Minnie Graves, who is returning to the Bellweather to face a horrible past incident she witnessed there when she was a little girl.  We also meet twins Bert (Rabbit) and Alice Hatmaker, who are participants in the music festival and who are about to graduate high school and face college, perhaps apart for the first time in their lives.  The storylines of these and other characters converge in really satisfying and intricate ways, and everyone is sort of connected to one another even if they don’t realize it.  There’s a creepy mystery that kept me turning the pages involving Alice’s roommate for the weekend turning up missing (and perhaps dead?) and some really sweet stories of characters searching for meaning and fulfillment after years of self-sabotage.  Racculia’s lovely writing about the beauty and power of music also touched me.  I love stories like this, that are all kinds of different things at once.  And it did really feel Westing Game-esque (good job, Jenny!)  This was just a really nice surprise – a fun, endearing novel.

So what are some of your favorite hard-to-categorize, quirky books?  Tell me your picks in the comments.

 

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17 thoughts on “Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia: A Mini-Review

  1. Laila, thank you so much for reading and reviewing this in depth! I could kick myself because when it came out, I swear I read a GR friend’s review that mentioned a paranormal angle that made me take it off my TBR list.I don’t do paranormal anything. Based on your review, it sounds like a quirky mystery book! THAT I can do.

    As far funky books, I really liked this novella called Glaciers by Alexis Smith. It was lovely!

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    1. Eve, it’s a little bit creepy, because some bad stuff happens at the beginning that reverberates throughout the book, and some characters reference horror movies, but there is no paranormal angle as far as I could tell! I think I’ve heard of Glaciers but I’m gonna go look that one up – thanks!

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    1. Yay, Juhi! I first read The Westing Game when I was about 9 years old, and I recently reread it and listened to the audio, and it totally holds up! It’s a fun quirky mystery for middle grade readers with a very spunky main character and lots of kinda shady other characters.

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  2. This book is SO hard to categorize! I had it in my head as being one category — a readalike for Fangirl — and then I couldn’t make it fit into that box conceptually. I enjoyed it so much more once I stopped expecting it to be any particular thing. Such a weird and wonderful book, I’m glad you liked it too!

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  3. Hmm… I don’t read quirky books often, but I loved Stefan Spjut’s The Shapeshifters – a mixture of crime and folklore including shapeshifting trolls! Should have been awful but turned out to be great…

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  4. Sometimes it does take us a year or two to finally get around to reading a book! I’ve got some sitting on my shelves for 3+ years and I DO plan to read them eventually! haha
    The cover is delightful as the rest of the novel, it seems. Good to hear that you enjoyed it. :]

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    1. Oh yes, Naz – I’ve got some of those on my shelves, although in the past few years I’ve gotten a bit better about purging titles that I realize I don’t want to read with much urgency anymore. I am comforted knowing that I will never, ever run out of things to read! (Believe it or not, people tell me that at the library quite often – “I don’t have anything to read.” I don’t understand it!)

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  5. Fun! Fun! I put this on my list to read after Jenny’s review but haven’t had a chance to borrow it from the library yet. Must get to that! A quirky book I really enjoyed is When Mystical Creatures Attack! It’s kinda sorta linked short stories and other than that impossible to classify.

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  6. Heh it usually takes me a while to get around to most books. This one sounds like a fun read and I love the cover art! Quirky books mmmm I think maybe Dan Rhodes books? Though they are weird and sometimes macabre. Maybe Alan Bradley’s Flavia books or definitely the Thursday Next series 🙂

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