Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Problem With Murmur Lee - Connie May Fowler (Kindle)

Back yet again with my absolute favorite author. I'm running out of her material though...I believe there is only one other book of Connie's that I have not read. I hope she is working on something. I cannot get enough of her.

Connie May has brought us yet again a beautiful, lyrical tale set in old Florida, this time on a fictional island near St. Augustine called Iris Haven. The island has few inhabitants, but a colorful cast of characters that interact as an enclosed ecosystem. An angry, frigid artist. A talented and eccentric doctor, recently widowed, who cares for the nearby immigrants. An 62-year-old ex-marine who is now a woman, thanks to a recent sex change. A few other old fishermen, farmers, etc. that spend most of their time at the local bar, Salty's. Then there is Murmur Lee. Salt of the earth, lover of all living things, music and literature. Recently divorced and having lost her 5 year-old to leukemia, she refuses to let life get her down. She is a friend to all and the center of the small universe of Iris Haven.

One New Year's Eve, however, something unimaginable happens...Murmur drowns in a freak accident while relaxing with her boyfriend on the river. Nobody knows exactly what happened, but they all have their suspicions. In Iris Haven, lives are destroyed at the loss of their best friend, "her generosity, her chestnut laugh, her humor, her desire to see the best in people, her insistence on making green things grow" that leaves a hole in the heart of everyone that knew her.

The story is told in a way that is classic Connie May Fowler, and in a way not many authors could pull off. We learn about Murmur's life through her grocery lists, diary entries, letters written from Murmur to her best friend Charlee at a young age, letters written by the local priest to the archdiocese about Murmur, Murmur's last will and testament. We are privy to musings and recollections about Murmur from each of her friends, all in the first person. But what is most poignant is when we hear from Murmur's spirit after she has died:

"Here I am, still dead as rain, floating along, scattered one moment, gathered the next. Sometimes I'm hard and tight and fast-moving. But there are other moments when I feel as if the universe has tossed me like a handful of salt just to see how far I'll fly. I'm a little scared. I mean, can this be all there is for all of eternity? Is this what spirits do? Forever? Blow about like pollen in a dimension composed solely of wind, watching from time to time film clips of their lives? Where's God?..."

This is in fact what happens. Murmur's spirit watches portions of her life and the lives of her ancestors, sometimes revealing secrets she never knew when she was living. She learns lessons, only now understanding the big picture. Through these snippets, and the musings from her friends, we learn exactly what happened to Murmur on the night she lost her life.

I cannot even begin to verbalize the beauty of this book. It literally swept me away, similar to my reaction to Fowler's "Remembering Blue". Although the plot may seem dark, you will not find yourself closing this book with a heavy heart. Instead you will feel like you have been reborn, with a fresh outlook on what it means to live life to the fullest, the spirituality of the earth, the community of friendship that helps you heal, and the prose of the author that reads like a song. I will leave you with this quote. It was a line from Murmur's diary as a cure for the blues, and was read while her ashes were being scattered at the beach:

"Find a fern with new growth. Cut the young curled tendril with a knife that has been dipped in lemon water. Place the tendril against your heart. Tape it if you have to. And say these words...I am a gift to the universe. I am loved unconditionally by at least one person on this earth (say their name). No matter this current sorrow, my heart's ease will be the knowledge that, just like the ancient ferns, I am always emerging, growing."

5 out of 5 stars


Melody said...

Wow, you're on a Connie May Fowler roll! LOL. I'll HAVE to check out her books since you rave so much about her.

Unknown said...

I love the quotes. I did notice how beautiful some of the writing was in Sugar Cage.

I will read some more Connie May Fowler books in the future - which one do you think is her best?

Beth F said...

Your enthusiasm is hard to resist! When I see a break in my reading schedule . . . (haaaaaa)

Thoughts of Joy said...

There is no mistaking your love for Connie May Fowler! :) Does she know you are a fan? I think any of your posts regarding her books would bring much joy to her day.

I'm with Farmlanebooks - where do you think us deprived Fowler readers should begin?

Anna said...

You've had me interested in Fowler's books for some time now. As soon as I catch up with my TBR tower, I'll look for this one. It sounds really good.

Diary of an Eccentric

Amy Reads Good Books said...

Cool! I love to hear about someone's very favorite author. I'll have to check this one out.

ds said...

That last quote is stunning. I'm with the others: where to start?
Thanks (and you should try to contact her; she has a right to know about her biggest fan)!

Iliana said...

Another one by Connie May Fowler that sounds very good. One of these days I will read one of her books.

Just curious though, do you ever feel like you might get burnt out by reading her books? I say that because I happened to read a couple of Heyer books back to back and I enjoyed them but something felt a bit off. I kind of felt like I needed a breather. I guess for me it means I prefer to have quite a few months between books.

Literary Feline said...

She'd better hurry up and write more so you don't run out! This sounds like a really good one, Sandy. The cast of characters you described definitely has be intrigued.

Darlene said...

You are just breezing through her books. You're starting to wear me down. I'm going to see if my library has any of hers.

Carrie K. said...

I'd never heard of this author until you mentioned her - her name is certainly going on my to-read list!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - I know, she's one of my favs. I can't get enough of her.

Jackie - that is a hard one. Probably this one, or Remembering Blue. But then again, I loved her memoir too called When Katie Wakes. I'm sure that is a huge help!

Beth - Oh come on...just slip one in there! They are quick reads!

Thoughts of Joy - I did e-mail Connie a while back and never received a response. I think she stays to herself for the most part...

Anna - My hope is that everyone give her a try. Her prose is really wonderful!

Amy - she is definitely one of my favorite authors!

Sandy Nawrot said...

ds - I know...like I said, I tried, but I didn't want to seem like a stalker. I am hoping she has Google Alert and find me! I may try again though. I think she is really special.

Iliana - with some authors, I do get tired of them. Connie is the exception. Her writing is such a breathe of fresh air. Her books are like an indulgent candy bar...never get enough!

Wendy - I know! I'm going to have to start re-reading!

Dar - I'm doing my best!

Carrie - I want to spread the word. She is under=appreciated!

Unknown said...

Sorry to hear that Connie didn't respond to your email. Does she not realise you are her biggest blogging fan?!

Susan said...

Beautiful passages! I need to put this one on the list, for sure. I love lyrical writing. Thanks!

Jess said...

Great review. I read this for book club and we all really enjoyed it.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - I suppose I should try to contact her again. The last time I e-mailed her, I had yet to review her first book. She should know that I'm trying to spread the word!

Susan - The cool thing about Connie is that most of her writing is like this. She is so incredibly easy to read, even when the topic is not so happy.

Jess - I'm always happy to hear when someone else reads and likes her books. I think she is very special!

caite said...

"you will feel like you have been reborn..."
wow, I have to read a book that will do that!