Mourning Dove (Claire Fullerton) – Review

Mourning Dove blog tour

Welcome to the blog tour & giveaway for Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

~ About the Book ~

mourning doveTitle: Mourning Dove
Author: Claire Fullerton
Publisher: Firefly Southern Fiction
Release Date: June 29, 2018
Genre: Southern Fiction, Family Life

“An accurate and heart-wrenching picture of the sensibilities of the American South.” Kirkus Book Reviews

The heart has a home when it has an ally.

If Millie Crossan doesn’t know anything else, she knows this one truth simply because her brother Finley grew up beside her. Charismatic Finley, eighteen months her senior, becomes Millie’s guide when their mother Posey leaves their father and moves her children from Minnesota to Memphis shortly after Millie’s tenth birthday.

Memphis is a world foreign to Millie and Finley. This is the 1970s Memphis, the genteel world of their mother’s upbringing and vastly different from anything they’ve ever known. Here they are the outsiders. Here, they only have each other. And here, as the years fold over themselves, they mature in a manicured Southern culture where they learn firsthand that much of what glitters isn’t gold. Nuance, tradition, and Southern eccentrics flavor Millie and Finley’s world as they find their way to belonging.

But what hidden variables take their shared history to leave both brother and sister at such disparate ends?

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~ Excerpt ~

By anybody’s standards, 79 Kensington Park was not a kid-friendly house. Fashioned in the style of a stucco French chateau, it was sprawling, it was formal, and most everything in it was breakable. It was the antithesis of the bucolic comfort we’d left behind in Minnesota, and being dropped into its clutching embrace felt like being jolted from a dream into disparate circumstances. But my genteel mother was back where she belonged. It was only Finley and me who had to get used to the idea of being displaced Yankee children deposited into a culture whose history and social mores don’t take kindly to outsiders. We were suspects from the very start. We had Minnesota accents, we were white as the driven snow, and we both had a painfully difficult time deciphering the Southern dialect, which operates at lightning speed and doesn’t feel the need for enunciation. Instead, it trips along the lines of implication.
Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, my mother’s plan was pin-point specific. She simply picked up in Memphis where she’d left off before marrying my father, as if she’d changed her mind over which cocktail dress to wear to a party. The dress would look good on her, she’d make sure of it, and it’d show off her curves and float lightly above her delicate knees with airborne fragility from every step of her enviable narrow, size-seven feet.
My mother didn’t walk into a room, she sashayed, borne from the swivel of her twenty-four-inch waist. Her name was Posey, and although there was a lot more to her than she ever let on, by all appearances, the name suited her perfectly.
At the end of the summer of 1970, when my mother reconciled herself to the idea of divorcing my father, she needed to devise a long-range plan. She wanted to keep up appearances, my father had lost all our money, which left her with four years until she could access the money her father left her in trust. After uncharacteristically humbling herself for financial assistance from my father’s wealthy relatives, she packed Finley and me in the car and drove with steel determination to Memphis. She’d left my father standing drunk and hopeless in the driveway, watching his family evaporate in the distance, wondering how his life had come to this.

~ Review ~

This was a deeply evocative novel and beautifully written, and yet I’m still sitting here trying to sort out exactly how I feel about the story itself. Narrated by Millie Crossan in the first-person, the story takes the form of a memoir—although the further I got into the story, the easier it was to forget this until the odd sentence cropped up reminding me that the narrator is actually looking back at her life rather than living it as it’s narrated. And yet by the end of the novel, I felt as though I didn’t really know Millie Crossan at all. I could tell you all the things that impacted her life, but I didn’t feel like I actually knew her.

But the longer I’ve thought about it, the more I think that was the whole point—or at least partly the point.

The story begins when Finley and Millie are uprooted from their childhood home in Minnesota and moved to their mother’s childhood home in the South. The early chapters fill in details of their parents’ marriage and background, and then the story carries us through Finley’s and Millie’s adolescence and into their young-adult years. It’s a story steeped in the carefully controlled manners and behaviours of the polished South, growing up with mother of whom Millie says, “I never saw her admit to the complete gamut of emotions inherent in all of mankind, and I thought it was because not all of them played well on her stage.

For a while I felt ambivalent about the story—despite the beauty of the writing—because Millie was such a passive character. She didn’t do anything; she just watched everyone else do things and got caught up in the slipstream. (I don’t want to be any more specific than that in case I give spoilers.) But towards the end, Millie herself realises that she’s “just been floating along my whole life at the whim of other people”, and suddenly I had to re-evaluate everything I’d been thinking and feeling about the story. Because if that was the case, then the author had actually crafted the story perfectly. And in the end, it made quite a point about the need we have for affirmation and love, and for the ability to be real about our emotions and to not sweep the messiness of life under the carpet for the sake of keeping up appearances.

This review is getting long, even for me, so I will just make two more brief comments. The first is that, as beautiful as the writing was (both the vocabulary and the imagery), there were many times when it didn’t feel authentic to Millie’s voice. I couldn’t help feeling that, even as an adult, Millie wouldn’t have had quite so sophisticated a vocabulary, and that occasionally pulled me out of the story.

The other point is that the reader knows from the beginning that the story is leading up to a tragedy. The ‘who’ is revealed early on, but the ‘how’ is quite a surprise. I don’t mind an emotional read, but I like to be left with some sense of the character having grown through their circumstances, and I didn’t come away from this story with that sense. Again, I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil anything, but it left me with a bit of an ache for Millie.

So what does all of this add up to? If you love an evocative, beautifully-written story, this will tick that box. If you’re looking for a book that would make for great book club discussions, this will also tick that box. And if my review has whetted your appetite rather than dampened it, go for it. There’s every chance you will love it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.


~ About the Author ~

2 Claire LvgRm 3 set 2 828 465 360-1010730

Claire Fullerton grew up in Memphis, TN and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of contemporary fiction, “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” set in Connemara, Ireland, where she once lived. Dancing to an Irish Reel is a finalist in the 2016 Kindle Book Review Awards, and a 2016 Readers’ Favorite. Claire is the author of “A Portal in Time,” a paranormal mystery that unfolds in two time periods, set on California’s hauntingly beautiful Monterey Peninsula, in a village called Carmel-by-the-Sea. Both of those novels are published by Vinspire Publishing. Her third novel, Mourning Dove, is a Southern family saga, published in June 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. She is one of four contributors to the book, A Southern Season, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, to be published in November 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction.

Connect with Claire: Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Pinterest  //  Instagram


Mourning Dove blog tour giveaway

~ Tour Giveaway ~

Claire Fullerton is giving away:

  • 1 audiobook of Mourning Dove (US only)

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight August 21, 2018 and last through 11:59pm August 28, 2018. US only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow along with the tour at JustRead for a full list of stops!

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About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
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5 Responses to Mourning Dove (Claire Fullerton) – Review

  1. Thank you so much for your spot-on, insightful review! I know you’re a discerning reader, and your following surely knows this! I am honored to be here! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Weekend Book Buzz – 25/26 August 2018 | Fiction Aficionado

  3. Carrie says:

    Beautifully done review, Katie!

    Liked by 1 person

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