THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “EVANGELICALISM AND THE DECLINE OF AMERICAN POLITICS,” BY JAN LINN, AND “THE FOURTH CORNER OF THE WORLD,” BY SCOTT NADELSON, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.
THE BOOK: Barrie Hill Reunion
PUBLISHED IN: 2017
THE AUTHOR: Lisette Brodey
SUMMARY: Eight people. One weekend. Eight lives forever changed. In the mid-1960s, at an elite college in the quaint town of Barrie Hill, Connecticut, a group of literary-minded students met regularly off-campus at the Vanessa Grand Hotel. Often late into the night, they would discuss the day’s news, analyze literature, philosophize, trade barbs, and socialize. Twenty years after graduation, in 1986, the group’s founder, Clare Dreyser, organizes a weekend reunion. Seven former Barrie Hillers and one guest get together, eager to re-create an extraordinary time in their lives and reunite with old friends. From the outset, and baffling the group, Leah Brent displays a brash, condescending attitude for nearly everyone and everything. To the chagrin of actor Bart Younger, Leah immediately lays out the unwelcome mat for his wife, Aimee. No one, not even Leah’s husband, Colin, is immune to her wrath, but Leah is relentless in her bizarre and cruel quest to bring down her primary target: Clare. As the reunion progresses, the Barrie Hillers strive to enjoy their time together as they become enmeshed in personal dramas, struggle with matters of ethics, and weather escalating uncertainties that threaten to destroy their lives. By Saturday night, the second day of the reunion, karma makes a surprising and shocking visit. As the Barrie Hillers’ time together draws to an end, each is changed forever.
THE BACK STORY: When I was attending Pace University in New York City, my grandmother came to visit me for the weekend from Philadelphia. That Sunday, she took me to brunch at the Algonquin Hotel. It was then that I learned about the Algonquin Round Table, the famous group of witty people who met there for lunch from 1919 until 1929 or thereabouts. It was so long ago that I barely remember the experience, but I do remember that I was pulled in by my surroundings as I imagined the laughter and the conversation of days past.
The inspiration was instant, and I knew I wanted to write a story about the reunion of a college literary group and set it in a hotel similar to the Algonquin. Back in those days, I wasn’t very good at finishing things, but I did write an intriguing, albeit unfinished, short story. Not wanting to lose it, I thought I had better make a copy. My roommate at the time had worked in an office and I’d asked her if she could “Xerox” it for me. She’d completely forgot to do it and I’d forgotten that my brilliant idea and story had ever existed.
Fast forward eight years. I’m now living in Los Angeles and my former roommate is getting rid of stuff she had collected, finds my story, and mails it to me. I was overjoyed. Instead of finishing it, I turned it into a one-act play. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to leave out a lot of needless details, and fast-forward again many years to when I turned it into a two-act play. Now, I’m going to skip decades and tell you that I finally turned the story into a novel that I published in October 2017. The characters all have their original names I’d given them. I did make several tweaks to some of their characters, and because I was writing a novel, I was able to write sub-plots that really brought the story together.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? It is very much a character-driven story. I might even call it an “emotional thriller” as there is a lot of tension throughout.
While many of Lisette Brodey’s books have dealt with painful issues and struggle between feeling people, Barrie Hill Reunion, in some ways, is the harshest of all; taking place under the polite veneer of a weekend reunion. You wait and wait; watch the cracks for; wait for something to break and then… well, that’s enough.
* * *
This book was fascinating. I’ve never read anything like this. It was such an interesting panorama of characters, almost like a study of different personalities. I loved that there was one overreaching plot arc, but within that umbrella were several subplots involving smaller groups of characters, and that these subplots all came together in the end. You wonder as it’s going along how they all will relate; there is secrecy and manipulation and yearning and desperation, and you’re reminded that we all have deep dark secrets we keep from others.
The dialogue-rich narrative drives the plot and exposes twenty years of secrets, passions, and lives gone awry. Among the friends present, one in particular stands out. Leah Brent, who lacks any self-critical conscience bulldozes her way into conversations with an acid tongue. She hurls insults for sport and takes great pride in causing pain for the others. You know she will eventually get her ‘just desserts,’ but you have no idea how sweet it will be. With numerous surprises along the way, Ms. Brodey doles out each morsel like pieces of calorie-rich chocolate. The journey to discovery is quite delicious.
AUTHOR PROFILE: In my early career, while living in New York City, I handled special events (and much more) for a trade association of New York radio stations, reps, and networks. When I left that job, I moved to Los Angeles for several years and worked at both CBS Studio Center (then CBS/MTM) and Paramount Studios. I worked as an assistant to many executives and producers. While I have lots of stories, working for Hollywood executives is not a job I’d recommend to many. Enough said! I returned to the East Coast and for many years worked as a freelance writer. I was a copywriter on several major marketing campaigns and had a resume business, too. In 2010, I moved back to Los Angeles. I am a multi-genre author of seven novels (though I am currently finishing a collection of short stories), and am already cooking up trouble with plans for my next novel. In addition to writing, I work as a SAG background actor from time to time. (Working on set is much better than working in executive offices!)
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I write about real people. When I say that, I do not mean that my characters are living or dead people in disguise. They are not. But I listen to my characters when they speak. While I may work hard to craft my narrative, I approach dialogue in a different way. I allow the characters to say what they want, use profanity if that’s what they do, act rude if they are so inclined, be funny and ridiculous, and spill secrets (even to me.) I strive to write relatable novels that I hope will entertain people or give someone a new way to think about something that may be going on in their lives.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: myBook.to/BarrieHillReunion
WHERE TO BUY IT: It is available in paperback ($14.95) and Kindle ($3.99) editions on Amazon. Members of Kindle Unlimited can read it for free.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR:
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/BrodeyAuthor/