I really can't write a better description of Bellweather Rhapsody than the author herself, who sums it up on her website like this:
"My second novel asks the big questions, like:
What if Glee and Heathers had a baby and sent it to band camp at the Overlook Hotel?"
BEST DESCRIPTION EVER! This is totally accurate.
But I will trudge along and write a review anyway.
Kate Racculia is a master storyteller!
First of all, the setting is rich and delightful. The Bellweather is a historic hotel run by Harry Hastings, the concierge, who has lovingly taken care of it and its guests all these years. You can tell that the hotel was really something special back in its day, but the years have taken their toll, and with its lack of business, money hasn't been spent to keep the hotel in its former glory. The Bellweather has ballrooms, an auditorium, and a Tiffany glass domed rooftop pool. Since it's in upstate New York in the middle of a snow storm, references to The Shining are appropriate and encouraged.
The story begins in 1982 when a twelve-year-old bridesmaid witnesses a murder suicide in room 712 of the Bellweather. Then it skips fifteen years ahead to the Statewide competition for band, orchestra, and choir. We're introduced to two of the main characters, twin brother and sister, Rabbit and Alice Hatmaker. They've both made it to the Statewide their senior year. Their new music teacher that year is Natalie Wilson, who drives them to the hotel in a "short bus" merely because she knows it will aggravate Alice. Alice is a bit of a Rachel Berry, who is confident in her talent and future as a singer/actress. While Rabbit is a very talented bassoon player with a secret.
Arriving at the Bellweather, we meet the conductor, Fisher Brodie. Fisher is a talented piano player with an offbeat way of conducting and a semi-tragic childhood. Viola Fabian is in charge of the event, after the previous organizer had a heart attack under questionable circumstances. Her daughter Jill Faccelli is Viola's flute-playing prodigy daughter who hates her mother and simply wants to be left alone.
Imagine throwing all these characters together in a hotel with a few hundred more music-making teens for the weekend. Add in a few suicides or murders and you get this fabulous character driven, spectacularly written novel.
Also, the music! The author successfully writes about music, so that you can hear it. Plus, there is an orchestra scene near the end that is especially lovely and took me back to my own days in band to those special moments when everyone experienced the same joy of playing beautiful music well together.
There is just so much wonderful here. I highlighted so many passages that I adored. The descriptions, the characters, the setting, the dialogue, and the tone are pure perfection. This is my favorite of the year, so far. Did I mention it just won the Alex Award? Totally deserving.
The author's website has some fun links for you. You can see a Clue-like map of the Bellweather and some printable Tarot cards. Nifty. You can click below to go directly to the map.