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The Problem With Murmur Lee Hardcover – January 11, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; English Language edition (January 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385499817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385499811
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,634,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This elegiac novel, chronicling the life and death of idiosyncratic Murmur Lee Harp, showcases Fowler's easy, loose-limbed prose and sympathetic eye for human fallibility. Murmur Lee, 35, owns a popular local rundown bar in a North Florida backwater called Iris Haven and is skilled in the use of potions and spells. After her only child dies and her husband runs away, she finally finds the man she thinks may be the love of her life, then mysteriously drowns in a local river. Fowler (Before Women Had Wings) beautifully crafts the story of this woman's life through the eyes of her motley bunch of friends and through the spirit of Murmur Lee as she looks back at her past life. After Murmur Lee's death, Charleston Rowena Mudd, Murmur's childhood friend and a "Self Loathing Southerner," finds herself back home in Iris Haven, having dropped out of Harvard Divinity School. Also in town is Billy Speare, Murmur's last love, a writer who believes he's on the verge of bestsellerdom; Lucinda Smith, an angry, chain-smoking yoga teacher; Dr. Zachary Klein, who's mourning his wife, dead of breast cancer; and former marine turned transsexual Edith Piaf, mesmerized by the singer of the same name. Somehow, Fowler makes the disparate viewpoints and characters work, and the singular life of Murmur Lee Harp engagingly unfolds, as does the mystery behind her early death.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–At first glance, this novel appears to fuse elements from Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones (Little, Brown, 2002) and Rebecca Wells's Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (HarperCollins, 1996). As it opens, Murmur Lee, a free-spirited young woman who enjoys life with a circle of eccentric friends on a coastal island in Florida, is chronicling her death by drowning. Subsequent chapters are told through her eyes and those of various friends, including her best friend, who returns from Boston to settle her affairs; a 62-year-old ex-marine who has had a sex-change operation; a doctor who has yearned for Murmur since losing his wife to breast cancer; an angry, young, self-proclaimed Mennonite whose penchant for profanity does little to hide her vulnerability; and Murmur's novel-writing boyfriend from up north whom the rest of the group suspect of having had a hand in her death. In her afterlife, Murmur is given glimpses into the past that allow her to understand her relationships with her zealously religious mother, distant father, and ex-husband. Despite a central theme that involves the ways that Murmur Lee and her friends try to come to terms with her death, the book is not morbid; rather, Fowler's sharp wit and insight enable her to touch on the intertwined topics of life, death, faith, friendship, and love with grace and aplomb. Students will appreciate the extent to which the author takes her characters on separate and rocky journeys, and the power of leaving their ultimate destinations purposefully vague. Highly readable and thought-provoking.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Connie May Fowler is an award-winning novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter. Grand Central Publishing will publish her most recent novel, How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, April 2, 2010. She is the author of six other books: five critically acclaimed novels and one memoir. Her novels include Sugar Cage, River of Hidden Dreams, The Problem with Murmur Lee, Remembering Blue--recipient of the Chautauqua South Literary Award--and Before Women had Wings--recipient of the 1996 Southern Book Critics Circle Award and the Francis Buck Award from the League of American Pen Women. Three of her novels have been Dublin International Literary Award nominees. Ms. Fowler adapted Before Women had Wings for Oprah Winfrey. The result was an Emmy-winning film starring Ms. Winfrey and Ellen Barkin. In 2002 she published When Katie Wakes, a memoir that explores her descent and escape from an abusive relationship. Her work has been translated into 18 languages and is published worldwide. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, London Times, International Herald Tribune, Japan Times, Slate, Oxford American, Best Life, and elsewhere. For two years she wrote "Savoring Florida," a culinary and culture column for FORUM, a publication of the Florida Humanities Council. In 2007, Ms. Fowler performed in New York City at The Player's Club with actresses Kathleen Chalfont, Penny Fuller and others in an adaptation based on The Other Woman, an anthology that contains her essay "The Uterine Blues." In 2003, Ms. Fowler performed in The Vagina Monologues alongside Jane Fonda and Rosie Perez in a production that raised over $100,000 for charity. She is currently working on her next project, a novel titled Euphrates in Paradise. In addition to writing, Ms. Fowler has held numerous jobs including bartender, food caterer, nurse, television producer, TV show host, antique peddler, and construction worker. From 1997-2003 she directed the Connie May Fowler Women Wings Foundation, an organization dedicated to aiding women and children in need. From 2003-2007 she served as the Irving Bacheller Professor of Creative Writing at Rollins College and directed their award-winning visiting author series Winter With the Writers. Ms. Fowler travels the country, speaking on topics such as writing, self-employment in the arts, literacy, domestic violence, child abuse, environmental issues, and popular culture. She teaches writing workshops and seminars globally and is the founder of Below Sea Level: Full Immersion Workshops for Serious Writers. She is a Florida native.

Customer Reviews

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This book was actually very deep, without seeming so.
Karen Ferrero
I have read and re-read this book and I get just as caught up in the story everytime I read this wonderful novel.
GA Peach
Her ear for dialogue and skill in character development is so beautifully articulated.
Jane Doe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By *Q* on April 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Just finished reading this wonderful book. I have never read any of Connie May Fowler's books before this one and I can safely say I am hooked. I even bought a copy for my Mom for Mother's Day!

Reading her words are like sailing along a lazy river. Thoughts and images floating through your brain effortlessly. When I got to the end of this wonderful book, I thought "Wow".....I've found a new Author to explore.

All I can add now is.....I'm really going to miss the characters, especially Murmur Lee.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Marion VINE VOICE on March 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ate this book up with a spoon, it was just soooo good. After reading the last page (and wiping away my smeared makeup from crying my eyes out), I turned to the front of the book and started over. It's that kind of book. I wanted to buy a hundred copies and give them to everyone I know!!! (I don't ever recall feeling quite this way about a book.) Thank you, Angie, for telling me about this story!!!!!!!!!!!!! I owe you for this one.

I have never in my life read such lyrical, soul-stirring, beautiful, original, exquisite, emotion-filled writing. I wanted to BE Murmur Lee, lover of life, nature, and nurturer of all kinds of people. She was a survivor, lover and friend of the highest order...we should all aspire to imitate the depth of her soul.

Ms. Fowler, you are truly a word magician and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this book. It renewed my sagging faith in life. The words just sparkle on the page and fill your heart with wonder and awe at the miracle of life and living.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Laura van den Berg on January 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Connie May Fowler's latest novel is brilliant and devastating-a celebration of all the elements that make our world simultaneously heart breaking and joyous. The novel explores Southern culture, both the external features and the deeply ingrained qualities that one cannot completely abandon, no matter how hard they try. "The Problem With Murmur Lee" offers a multifaceted examination of an extraordinary woman's life, in addition to the lives of the people who loved her. Throughout the novel, Fowler's prose remains lyrical and evocative, as the story of Murmur Lee Harp unfolds with all the beauty, pain, and complexity that characterizes a fully realized life.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Terese Rose on February 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
(pardon the play on words)! Reading this book is a magnificent experience! If we are lucky in life we meet a Murmer Lee...if we are truly blessed we find the Murmer Lee within ourselves. I can't recommend this book enough. I have placed it on the shelf alongside my other very favorite books where it will be easy to find and reread.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Audra A. McKinzie on March 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I really wanted to like this book, but somehow it just missed the mark for me. It was filled with quirky characters in a radiant setting...but they didn't ring true and I couldn't hold onto the sense of place. Plus, I "figured it out" pretty early on, and it became painful to bear witness to Murmur's one-dimensionally neurotic friends' poor behavior and totally undeveloped coping skills. Despite the unlikability of all the central characters, I became emotionally engaged, even though I felt like I had been tricked into the engagement by trite devices, such as cancer ridden wives and children. The epliepsy incident was garish but amusing.

Still, the overall message (as finally learned by Murmur before she turns into a plant) is valuable for all women and makes it worth the quick and easy read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Florida Critic on July 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is the secret princess of southern writers. This book is told from a dead person's point of view and the characters are as crazy as bed bugs. I loved the wierd neighbors and the setting is so magically described. Fowler apparently holds the chair in literature at Rollins College.I would like to pull up a chair beside her. I grew up in and around tampa bay and the north florida coast. These areas are her stomping ground and so vivid as she describes them. She could never write Before Women Had Wings again or something as good but this book is pure wonderful entertainment. Damn I would love to meet her! Fowler has to be a kick in the head over a glass of wine....her books are such.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frosty the Snowman on April 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was given this book for my birthday and read it on the airplane. I enjoyed it very much because although the plot was fairly predictable, and the ending a foregone conclusion, the characters were interesting and there were a couple of twists and turns along the way. I felt the comraderie of the characters and the overwhelming grief that came with their loss. They didn't always get along but, as it is with long-lasting friendship, they are there for one another. The glue that held their friendship together was Murmer Lee, and it was very interesting to see how they handled it when she died. I would definitely recommend this book. It is both sad and heartwarming at the same time. Not a long read, but a good one.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Murmur Lee Harp is a true child of nature, who has inherited a home on the Florida coast that has been in the family for generations, content to appreciate the world around her. When she drowns unexpectedly in the middle of her third decade on earth, her friends and current lover are shocked and confused, especially since Murmur Lee was as comfortable in the water as on the land. This was an extraordinary woman who has suffered her share of tragedy but lived each day to the fullest.

Murmur's connections to those she loved are examined in first-person chapters from the point of view of the dead Murmur herself, her close friends, Charleston Rowena Mudd, Lucinda, Dr. Z., Billy Speare (the last boyfriend) and Edith Piaf, an ex-Marine and transsexual at the age of 62. Each brings a personal perspective to Murmur's demise, the private moments of friendship that evolved over time.

Murmur's chapters are confessional, brief glimpses into the memories and events that shaped her rebellious personality, including a large dose of religion. Motherhood looms large, the culmination of higher purpose in a once unfocused life. But Murmur is trapped in the here and now, not yet released to the world of the spirits, trying to make sense of this temporary state as she drifts from one state of consciousness to another.

The inexplicable drowning leaves an enormous hole in the lives of Murmur Lee's friends, many of whom question whether the death was accidental or decidedly more sinister. All savor their memories of this rambunctious and irrepressible woman. Ferociously loyal, Charlee Mudd has the difficult task of closing up the beach house, reminiscing over the emotional tangle of her own impulsive decisions and the particular closeness that only best friends can enjoy. Dr.
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