A magical tale from Schulman (Swimming with Jonah, 1999, etc.), combining photographs, family tree graphs, and fanciful storytelling in the multigenerational Mourne family saga.
When 18-year-old Fran receives a phone call from her mother Gloria, it is one of the few bits of communication the two have had in the four years since Gloria ran away from home. Left alone on the family’s long-dilapidated Canadian farm, Fran has raised herself (when not in boarding school) on a mixture of longing and spite for her absent, charismatic mother. When the calls start coming, every evening at six o’clock sharp, Fran wants some answers, or at least normal conversation, but Gloria has another agenda: the recitation of the family stories. And so begins Fran’s tutelage—a string of tales outlandish and odd. Gloria tells first how Fran’s great-great-grandmother died as a young woman during Canada’s longest winter and then became a saint; how her 14 children moved the body to the barn, where it began to smell of lilacs, bees began to build hives, and for a century the body did not decompose. From this miraculous beginning, the stories of her children unfold—of the incomparably beautiful Celia, who marries a celebrated criminal and lives a life of glamour with a Colt .45 strapped to her thigh; and of Cessil, who finds a cigar-smoking bride in Rio and builds her a house named Brazil, a rambling mansion in Ft. Lauderdale built from the wealth amassed by his fierce, energetic wife. The house holds all the siblings (brought down from Canada, where they’d run an amusement park honoring the perfect body of their dead mother) as well as their spouses and children, the occupants and stories growing through the years. Not until late in the saga does Fran discover the reason for the mysterious calls—and why Gloria is racing to finish her tales.
An enchanting journey through the century, filled with a veritable circus of yarns.