Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Literary Mystery, The Last September, Presented by Nina de Gramont







Set against the desolate autumn beauty of Cape Cod
~~~

The Last September

Because I am a student of literature, I will start my story on the day Charlie died. In other words, I'm beginning in the middle. In medias res, that's the Latin term, and though my specialty is American Renaissance poetry, I did have to study the classics, Homer, Dante, Milton. They knew about the middle, how all of life revolves around a single moment in time. Everything that comes before leads up to that moment. Everything that comes afterward springs from that moment.
In my case, that moment--that middle--is my husband's murder.
~~~








By Nina de Gramont

I loved the slow pace of this mystery--it was the beauty of the story, of the writing that allows readers to settle back, drink a cup of tea, and learn about a beautiful love story--in fact, there are three love stories--that will capture attention immediately and on through to the very last surprisingly twisting ending. Nina de Gramont threw situations in like she was playing ball--a fast ball when Brett immediately left her fiance to go to another man... a curve ball when she learns that her best friend in college was in love with Brett...  And a slowly pitched ball as she weaves the love story of Brett and Charlie...

Brett was in college when she met and became best friends with Eli. So when Eli asked her to meet his brother, Charlie, it normally would have been routine... But it was lust at first sight for Charlie at the same time it was love at first time for Brett. They wound up spending the night together... 

And then Charlie left...

Eli and Brett continued to be friends, but it was a little awkward...Brett kept asking about Charlie and Eli finally shared that Charlie was what they called a "womanizer..." At no time, did Charlie call or ask about Brett and finally she went on with her life, meeting another man for whom she cared deeply and agreed to marry him...

Until Eli called her that his mother was dying and pleaded with her to come with him to their home. Brett had never met his parents...and then, Charlie would also be there... But Eli convinced her that he needed her with him...

As soon as they arrived, however, it was Charlie that immediately thought that Brett had come for him, knowing that he would need her...

Eli, her fiance, everybody else was forgotten as they renewed their relationship...with Charlie falling in love with Brett...

Of course, all these changes were not easily faced and much of the book deals with the drama of family relationships as Brett acknowledges that she'd always loved Charlie and still did...

...we broke trail, the snow collapsing through its crust into sifted granules. Charlie glided between the trees first. The scarf itched my neck and I could feel my ears burning red. The fabulous night silence--our labored breath and our skis whooshing through the snow.
Charlie saw the bear first, sitting just above the entrance to the Mesa Trail, only fifteen feet from us. I heard his breath draw in.. "Stop," he whispered. "Bear." As if my survival instinct were duller than my curiosity, I skied closer so I could see. I let one ski slide to the inside of Charlie's and linked my arm through his elbow. The material of my sleeve was thin enough that I could feel the lanolin squeak of his fisherman's sweater, and for the first time that night I felt cold. No grizzlies lived in Colorado, so despite the darkness I knew it was a black bear. He sat chewing on a stick with animal absorption. I couldn't tell whether he'd seen us...
"I just know we're not supposed to run." I slid back, untangling my skis from his.
"Shit," Charlie said. We both slid backward a foot or two. The bear didn't move.
"I'll race you," Charlie whispered. We turned away from each other with fluid synchronicity. I skated a few strokes, then curled myself into a tuck. Freezing snow flew up to plaster my face, as I whooshed too fast to wobble. I could hear Charlie panting behind me, but no thundering ursine footsteps. I kept going--fliding across Baseline Road without looking for traffic, continuing down Ninth Street--until I couldn't hear Charlie behind me...
"I win....Then he pulled me in and kissed me, almost as an act of carity--a Good Samaritan performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation...I could feel the tug of the future--even if in that moment, all the future meant was a place to curl in closer...
~~~

Readers are told as a flashback that Eli had jumped off a roof and was seriously hurt. He developed schizophrenia and was in and out of the hospital most of the remainder of his life. With their mother gone, Charlie found that his father refused to deal with Eli anymore, which left Charlie the one to whom Eli came for help... Initially Brett didn't really mind but then they had a child and she became worried about Eli being around her...

And then one day Eli called wanting to come stay with them. Brett took the baby to a friend's house so that Charlie could talk to Eli about being on his meds... When Brett did not receive Charlie's promised call, she went over and found Charlie--bludgeoned with a hammer and his throat slashed...

Had it been Eli who went into a rage?

There is a much more complex story with many different subplots that move the novel forward. There is a certain sadness to learn of Eli's accident and what it did to change the lives of so many people who surrounded him. The author has created an excellent, sympathetic role for Eli that makes him, almost, the main character. Brett is not a strong, independent woman and she finds herself moving from one friend to another, seeking support and even a place to stay. Still, with many men falling in love with her, we imagine that she was a warm, comforting friend and a good mother. While Charlie...well, he lived up to the role that he was first given in the beginning of the story, so he, too, deserves recognition, if only...sometimes...disdain.

The novel is thought-provoking and memorable and is even strong enough for a sequel to explain what happened to those who remained after Charlie's death... Have you tried literary mysteries? They are quite different, with few clues, but with an emotional pull that keeps you totally involved. This one is highly recommended...


GABixlerReviews


Nina de Gramont is a novelist and short story writer. Her first book, the short story collection Of Cats and Men, won a Discovery Award from the New England Booksellers Association and was a Booksense selection. Her novel Gossip of the Starlings was also a Booksense pick. Her second novel for adults, The Last September, is now out.
Nina has also written three novels for teens – The Boy I Love, Meet Me at the River, and Every Little Thing in the World, which was an ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults. Another novel for teens is forthcoming with Penguin in October, under the pseudonym Marina Gessner. The Distance From Me to You is a Junior Library Guild selection.
Essays and short stories by Nina have appeared in a variety of magazines including Seventeen, Redbook, and the Harvard Review. Nina lives in coastal North Carolina with her husband and daughter, and she teaches Creative Writing at UNCW.