From Publishers Weekly
Racculia's irresistibly charming debut is an artful mix of genres: oddball domestic (set in a boardinghouse, characters named Desdemona and Oneida), coming-of-age (high school loves and teen angst) and literary women's fiction (love, loss, and friendship). Sixteen years ago, Amy Henderson ran away from home to become a special effects creator in Hollywood. After she is killed in an on-set accident, her widower, Arthur, finds a box of memorabilia and sets off to her hometown to understand her past. He moves into a boardinghouse run by Amy's childhood best friend, Mona, and her teenage daughter, Oneida. Initially, Mona acts as Arthur's emotional nurse, but as they realize they hold answers for each other about Amy, their bond grows deeper. Oneida, meanwhile, gets involved with a local bad boy. The third act is nearly done in by an overly foreshadowed secret, but Racculia smartly keeps the focus on Oneida, Arthur, and Mona's reactions to the revelation (rather than the reveal itself). With its happy ending and rich trove of Gen-X references and humor, this is a thoroughly enjoyable first novel, both accessibly absurd and quite touching. (July)
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A quirky upstate New York boarding house is the backdrop for Racculia's ambitious debut about life, death, and love, lost and found. When Arthur Rook's wife, Amy, dies in a tragic accident, he devotes his future to understanding her past. Clues abound in a pink shoebox of keepsakes that contains a cryptic postcard addressed to Amy's childhood friend, Mona Jones. Turns out, Amy, an orphan, spent her childhood at the Darby-Jones boardinghouse, which was run by Mona's family. The two were inseparable for much of their young lives, until Amy became pregnant. Mere moments after giving birth, Amy left New York and her newborn baby behind. During an extended stay with Mona and her adolescent daughter, Oneida, Arthur slowly peels back the layers of Amy's world, discovering behind her cheery façade a host of secrets and lies. Fans of Bobbie Ann Mason and Billie Letts will enjoy this first outing from Racculia, who lessens the impact of an otherwise engaging tale by revealing a dramatic plot point prematurely and dwelling too long on Oneida's travails. --Allison Block