‘Bellweather Rhapsody’ book review
By Joshua Grant, Senior Columnist
Kate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody is a hotel story that mirrors other hotel stories. Imagine, if you will, that Wes Anderson had written and directed The Shining. Four characters? Not enough quirk. Better: an entire orchestra of precocious high-school musicians (and their chaperones). How precocious? Very precocious. Is the hotel haunted? Ambiguously. Twins? If we must.
It’s the late ’90s. The Bellweather Hotel has seen better days—in these stories, the big hotels always have. It remains mostly empty except for once a year during an annual gathering of the best student musicians in the state. That gathering is the setting for this story.
The twins I mentioned are oboist Rabbit Hatmaker and chorus-girl Alice Hatmaker, both precocious, co-dependant, and slightly nervous, contemplating their impending possible separation to different colleges. When Alice finds her prodigy roommate hanged, she is understandably shaken. When the body mysteriously disappears, things start to get weird.
What starts off rather twee unhinges quickly—murder, suicide, sex, and music threaten to burst the rotten old hotel, spilling hormonal teenagers and harried (equally hormonal) adults into the fast-deepening snow outside. The shift in tone and genre from light literary comedy to darkish thriller is actually kind of jarring and even disjointed, but once you get your bearings it’s not too hard to be swept up a second time.
Throughout the book, Racculia delivers some of the most convincing, visceral descriptions of the complicated emotions that tie a musician’s attachment to their art. To be a musician is to struggle with your art, your economy, and your personality, scraping hard for those moments when the music—even pieces you don’t take too seriously—takes on a life of its own.
And to be a teenager, I recall, is also fraught. Racculia captures this turmoil well in a fast-paced, funny read.