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The Problem with Murmur Lee: A Novel Paperback – March 7, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (March 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767921453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767921459
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,553,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
I have read and re-read this book and I get just as caught up in the story everytime I read this wonderful novel. I completely agree with another reviewers' comment that she wanted to BE Murmur Lee. Ms. Fowler can conjure up a character like very few other authors I have read. I can see them, I can hear their voices and I want more than anything to be there with these multi- dimensional characters. I share this book with all of my friends!
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