Book Jacket

 

rank 1068
word count 86251
date submitted 29.01.2010
date updated 25.07.2010
genres: Literary Fiction, Popular Culture, ...
classification: moderate
complete

Brewer House

Lisa Candelaria Bartlett

I spent years on the couch; not the shrink couch, just my couch. In front of the TV, eating Poptarts and crying into my cat.

 

Your twenty-year-old unmarried daughter, in her second year of college, is pregnant and wants to have an abortion.

Hold on.

The father of the baby is a convicted felon, out on parole.

Hold on.

The agony becomes yours and the walls of your home can barely contain the vacuum that your heart has evolved into.

Hold on.

You haven't seen your mother in nine years, or your childhood home in nearly twenty-five. If you can stand it, that is where you're headed. Even though it's where your father took his last breath when you were only twelve, and where your baby sister died in her crib, and where the existence of her was simply wiped away as if she had never been.

Hold on.

Because in the front room, there stirs another truth struggling to the surface.

A stolen life.

An innocent child horribly abused.

And one of your own may be a murderer.


Hold on.

The pieces are coming together, the voices are telling their stories, the emptiness is filling with the long hidden horror, passion, love and guilt. And you will know everything.

If you can just..

Hold on.

 
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tags

, adultery, alabama, gay, humor, kidnapping, literary fiction, love, murder, mystery, pregnancy, southern, suicide, tall tales

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197 comments

 

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ExpatMaddie wrote 1477 days ago

Lisa:
This is an often beautiful, and always engrossing, work of literary fiction. It is so good that I was inclined to read it twice: the first time to unfold the plot and reveal the mystery; the second time simply to wallow in the
lush language, fresh imagery, and detailed study of the unique and interesting, and clearly Southern, characters.

It seems to me that the central premise of "Brewer House" is that dark and painful secrets, unless dealt with effectively, will hang around to reverberate through time and down the generations of a family. This is certainly true with the three generations of the Brewer clan who have lived in a big old house in a small town in rural Alabama. "There was bad mojo connected to its very walls," we are told about the Brewer residence, which came into the family as a result of the untimely deaths of its builders. " That is the house that holds the secrets'" reflects MC Angela Doe Brewer, "It keeps them. ....where all things good and bad stir and revolve and collide to create our memories." Certainly, as far as she is concerned, a similar misfortune has continued to blight all their lives, obstructing intimacy, poisoning relationships, and preventing the development of healthy emotional attachments among her family members. The many security deposit and jewelry boxes that they have collected and stacked, over time, in the attic and drawers in Brewer House, are a simple metaphor for the secrets needing to be unlocked to set the family free. Only when, 'unhinged,' Angela returns to the house at age 42, after a self-imposed exile of decades, is the time finally right for what appears to be a divinely planned synchronicity to play out. It is then that the Brewers discover not only the purpose and identity of mysterious Miss Doe, but their own authentic selves.

Christian imagery is abundant in "Brewer House." Michelangelo's masterpiece, "The Pieta," a statue depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the crucified body of her son, Jesus Christ, is strongly evoked by the image of full-grown, dark and slender, distraught Jack Brewer, lying across the ample lap of large, alabaster-skinned, Miss Doe, as she rocks him after the death of his baby daughter, Gracie. Indeed, from the first sentence of the book, when we are introduced to this extraordinary character, who is a mute emotional savant, we have little doubt that she is exactly where she, and everybody else in town, needs her to be; for young and old, they flock to her seeking acceptance, comfort, and healing. It is obvious to all that Miss Doe, who "is lit from within," is possessed with special powers. In her presence, babies stop crying and accident victims cease to bleed.

The synchronicity that begins with her meeting twelve year old Jack Brewer, and being taken to the Brewer House and adopted as a family member, is amplified by him discovering the old rocking chair, "heavy as a piano," that nobody had noticed before at a foreclosure sale( itself a deft indicator of the troubled economic times.) Jack senses the strange "energy" emanating from the chair and it is unsurprising that it is not only a perfect gift for his beloved "sister;' but a perfect fit for her large body and habit of rocking. The rocking chair is of course an icon in Brewer House.

Miss Doe's constant rocking is echoed by the gentle, hypnotic, rhythm of the words as they blend with the motion of the chair to evoke a maternal heartbeat. Miss Doe herself is a reflection of the ancestral/archetypal memory of the rounded form of the Great Mother. She is totally accepting and non- judgemental, offering comfort and emotional support to all who seek it from her, family and strangers alike. She is the first person that Angela rejects and the first to accept her back, when she returns to the fold like the Prodigal Son.
" I would not leave the embrace of this dear woman who only loves and rocks and rocks and loves, in endless cycles, and we are lucky she does. I would not go to wake the person I need to wake to liberate me from a secret she does not know I know.'

Angela's unwed and pregnant teenage daughter, Celia, echoes the plight of the youthful Virgin Mary, and she arouses her mother's unresolved emotions about tiny Gracie's tragic death, when she seems to be considering an abortion. Shades of saintly stigmata run through Janey's not wanting to wash her hands ( also echoes of Lady Macbeth, and Pontius Pilate, in reverse) and the curative effect of the dark-stained petal from the dogwood tree...." the petal though...something changed inside me. It had been God or Gracie sending me a much needed sign to make up and get on with my life.." Legend,of course, holds that Christ was crucified on wood from the dogwood tree.

As Angela Doe's family mark the 28th anniversary of "Cherished" ( a nod perhaps to Toni Morrison's "Beloved'? ) little Gracie's cot death, they finally come together and fully accept each other for who they truly are, whether gay, like Avery ( whose partner is named "Christian') or bi-sexual like Angela herself. Though Angela after her divorce has been living a lesbian lifestyle, it takes Avery to announce it to their mother. By the end of the book we have a reconciled family who have begun a healthy new phase of their relationship. Angela, having secretly blamed her mother for not only Gracie's death but also the cancer that killed her beloved father, finally sees her for the wonderful woman she has always been and forgives her for the long-term effects of the overwhelming grief that caused her to withdraw from her children. It was a time when the death of a child was handled with secrecy and silence. The profound damage that being unable to express normal grief over what happened to Gracie, has caused to Angela's marriage, and her other important relationships, is made very clear in the book's careful study of her depression, intense neediness, fear of abandonment, pathological jealousy, and inability to accept normal intimacy.
"no matter how many miles she moves away, no matter how hard she tries to love all the people in her life until she loves them right out the door."

There is some lovely writing in this book. which, probably because of its Southern settings and characters, in many ways reminded me of the work of authors, Harper Lee and Fannie Flagg. For the main part the time jumps worked, even the unexpectedly huge one in the middle of the plot. A clear progression of time is shown via the artifacts available to characters in the different decades; in the evolving clothing styles and automobiles and telephones; and, most of all, in the evolving social norms and attitudes towards homosexuality, adultery, divorce, and style of marital relationships. I stopped many times just to savor the well-crafted descriptions ...this is one that captured my attention.. Angela is talking about Casey, her loving but rejected husband, in one of the many flashbacks that constitute the earlier chapters of the book..
" I know these things, as I lay ( "lie" ?) there looking at his pale eyelids, and his dark hair a beautiful contrast against the blue-white sheets.."

There is Southern humor and elegant poetry in the writing of "Brewer House," I especially loved Raymond Jnr's beautiful letters to efficient and stoical Sewby; and even if we had never gotten to the unraveling of the mystery of Miss Doe's identity, I would have still enjoyed knowing the Brewers and visiting the world of this unique family. However, when we do get to see the contents of the security deposit and jewelry boxes that were expected to contain things worth money, we find vastly more valuable treasure: The truth. There is a satisfying finale where the sins of the past inevitably come full circle, and Miss Doe's chilling history is revealed, with all of the sordid details of betrayal, adultery, and questionable suicide, surrounding her origin laid bare; and the entire divine synchronicity that brought her, nevertheless, into the Brewer family can be appreciated. Miss Doe has always accepted all of them for who they really are and, in return, they all love her. Now we all know and accept who she really is, too.

This is a lovely book. You have real talent, Lisa. I'd like to own a copy so I could read it again and again.
Backed without reservation.
Best wishes,
Maddie




Roger Thurling wrote 1438 days ago

Wonderful writing; I found myself constantly reminded of William Faulkner.
Roger Thurling

Bocri wrote 1433 days ago

16 May 2010
Brewer House is imbued with a stillness that paradoxically attracts and holds the attention. The prose has a quiet underplayed eloquence and there are instances of calculating foreshadowing as in the passage where the narrator, within earshot of Miss Doe, declines further 'cuddles'. Masterly, almost sedate, exposition carries the plot forward, without unnecessary twists and turns, but with expressive changes in angle or perspective, as evidenced in the opening to CH 12. Serious literature for the serious reader. BACKED. Robert Davidson. The Tuzla Run.

Luke Bramley wrote 1414 days ago

Ah, yes, reminiscent of King's heart-warmers ... The Green Mile etc. Cleverly and beautifully written ... love that closely observed stuff mixed with a warm bourbon feel and just a hint of magic. Splendid. Only possible flaw? Did I really care about Miss Doe? No, interested but not brought in to meet her as it were ... might have preferred an earlier back story ... a build up to the hugger/rocker she becomes. Well done, impressive. Luke. The Kingdom Within.

lavery51 wrote 1283 days ago

WOW what a great wind up intor/ It is very much above then norm. Very professional, and now I may just have to read the book, backed enthusiastically lynne ps please lok at You Turn if you can.

Tom Bye wrote 1287 days ago

HELLO LISA ' BREWER HOUSE'

Pitch rathe haunting and promises something good to come, and it does not fail,
After reading some chapters of your book i find it a great read and thouroughly engrossing
you write with a very descriptive style and paint a great picture, 'shades of john Banville author' here. and thats a compliment to your writing. your are very selective with words which add greatly to this literary read'.
i will read more, well done
TOM BYE ' FROM HUGS TO KISSES'
Please read some of mine and if you like it a backing appreciated thanks

RonParker wrote 1331 days ago

Hi Lisa,

I didn't think this story would appeal to me after reading your pitch, but I was wrong. It's unusual, interesting and well written. The only thing I would point out is that you need some dialogue tags in the scene where Jack first meets Doe. Although we know Doe doesn't speak, we don't know it at that point and it's difficult to be sure who is speaking. This is particularly true if a reader has skipped the prologue, as many do.

Ron

nsllee wrote 1345 days ago

Hi Lisa

Great pitch. Lovely writing. The whole Miss Doe rocking thing just tells you everything about this family and this neighbourhood without seeming to tell you anything. Backed.

Nicole
Chosen

Splinker wrote 1355 days ago

Backed
Splinker
"I've Been Deader"

GK Stritch wrote 1362 days ago

Brewer House,

Excellent, Lisa Candelaria Bartlett.

Backed.

GK Stritch
CBGB Was My High School

tisseurdecontes wrote 1367 days ago

This is a fascinating story about love, acceptance and the importance of human contact. I have only read the first two chapters, but you have effectively drawn me into the story and I am eager to find out what is next.

Steven Lloyd
THE AUDACITY OF HOPE AND CHANGE

Jayne Lind wrote 1368 days ago

Lisa: What a wonderful story! And beautifully told. This certainly deserves publication by a mainstream publisher. And it is extremely original--nothing quite like it. All the best. Jayne

dave_ancon wrote 1368 days ago

I like the ending to your prologue. Well done. I'll back this for you. Dave

Steven Rineer wrote 1369 days ago

It feels like you've been writing for a while and have command over the language you use. On top of that, the story is suspenseful and keeps the reader glued to the screen. This is a great piece of work and gladly backed. Steven Rineer

ikraft wrote 1370 days ago

A very interesting read for the first chapter! The description of Miss Doe at the beginning was very clear and thorough - well done! It kept me reading! I think your style is great and very complete.

Best Wishes,
Ian Kraft
(The Freel of Streel)

Lisa Scullard wrote 1374 days ago

Hi Lisa :) Read some of this earlier while waiting for my car to cool down so I could check the fluid levels :)

The beginning of your book made me curious about the ending, so I jumped to it - but first, what a great beginning. You direct the reader to Miss Doe as the hub of the story - even though she's not the narrator, and the mysterious 'savant'-style power that she has to comfort everyone brought to her care. It's as if she channels the love available to all directly from its original source in the Universe, without discrimination, or limitation, or justification. Just - there it is, on tap, unlimited, gratis - a human intrinsic right and need. If her arms and lap were accommodating enough, she would silently rock the whole world's troubles away.

Then I jumped to the ending - and now I'm curious about the middle :) Added to my watching queue for further enlightenment!

Best wishes, Lisa

Benjamin Dancer wrote 1378 days ago

I was drawn in by the first sentence. Then second paragraph to explain it. I really enjoyed this chapter. I'd like to come back for more. Thanks.

Benjamin Dancer
Fidelity

hellsbelles wrote 1381 days ago

Hi Lisa. Thanks for backing "Helens-of-Troy." I have put your title on my watchlist, and I hope to be able to get to it shortly.

Joanna Carter wrote 1382 days ago

An absolute joy: I'm delighted to have found it. I wish you every success with this.
Joanna Carter
Fossil Farm

Lady Midnight wrote 1389 days ago

The opening is excellently written, with a sense of the bizarre that raises immediate questions in the reader’s mind: Who is this mysterious woman? Why do old and young alike seek her out for comfort. What mysterious power does she have?
Descriptions. These are well drawn and evocative, creating images in the reader’s mind with minimum effort:
*…for my first of my many breaths…
*…on the dark busy pattern of Miss Doe’s gown.
*…ponytails bouncing in the sun…
Nitpicks:
I had rarely seen (such) empty staring out of a window… The original sentence seemed incomplete, perhaps insert the bracketed word?
…and again when his mother died. Whose mother?
…in the way only teenage girls know how to (do)… Don’t need the bracketed word.

As you can see the nitpicks are few and far between and easily rectified. Having said that, it’s just my opinion. This is a beautiful piece of writing, the opening is clearly constructed to tempt the reader to turn the page and it more than does its job. Backed.

Neville wrote 1391 days ago

Hi Lisa, this is quite a remarkable book, its beautifuly written. Your imagination is brilliant to come up with this.
It just flows along in the nicest way possible. I read a few chapter's and nearly rocked myself off to sleep.
Only joking of course, the book is different and I like it - all the best. SHELVED.

regard's,

Neville (The Secrets Of The Forest) Thank's for backing my book earlier, much appreciated.

Katy Christie wrote 1392 days ago

An intriguing beginning and don't we all need a rocker in our lives.
Katy Christie
No Man No Cry

Johanna Kern wrote 1393 days ago

Beautiful pitch, beautiful cover, and such a compelling story!

Backing with pleasure,

Johanna Kern
Master and the Green-Eyed Hope

James Peterson wrote 1394 days ago

Lisa,

I am putting this one on my shelf for the weekend.

James

C W Bigelow wrote 1394 days ago

Lisa, mysterious beginning, the town healer - made even more interesting by your lively, descriptive prose. Want to read more when I have time. Backed. CW (To Save the Sun)

D. L. Stroupe wrote 1394 days ago

This has a "still water" quiet quality to it, reminding me of a button I was given as a child. It read: "Some books are to be read, others to be chewed and digested." This is of the latter sort, and a fine example. Backed.

Rosemary Peel wrote 1397 days ago

I love the unusual way your chapters start, confusing for a moment then clarity itself as the story draws you in. Doe is such a wonderful character, again unusual - and all the better for that. I'm sure there are times in everyone's life when a rocking from a Doe like person would be most welcolme. Backed with pleasure.

Rosemary Peel wrote 1397 days ago

Sorry, I'm only half way down a page and wwe have got unexpected visitors. I will get back - am enjoying this!

Despinas1 wrote 1400 days ago

This is a well written pitch, and the cover of the book is outstanding. I am backing this because it deserves it so much.
Helen

Euphemus wrote 1400 days ago

Nice book, Lisa. You're writing is pure and refreshing, and the story line is very good.
I like it and back it.
(One comment. I dont think "Swiping a hand over his face" is an good word. Perhaps Wiping or even running or even palming)
Kind regards
David (Flawless Murder)

EltopiaAuthor wrote 1401 days ago

Who'd a thunk, a career "rocker!" This is, indeed, an unusual first chapter, very unique and refreshing. This will attract anyone who is tired of canned plots and cheap gimmicks, that is, looking for real storytelling. I will back as soon as I can make it happen.

F. Ellsworth Lockwood
"The Final Cruise"

EltopiaAuthor wrote 1401 days ago

Who'd a thunk, a career "rocker!" This is, indeed, an unusual first chapter, very unique and refreshing. This will attract anyone who is tired of canned plots and cheap gimmicks, that is, looking for real storytelling. I will back as soon as I can make it happen.

F. Ellsworth Lockwood
"The Final Cruise"

petrifiedtank wrote 1403 days ago

Really good. Good pitch, good writing. Just given you a backing, but returns not needed. Save your read for someone else. Good luck.

JD Revene wrote 1404 days ago

Lisa,

Chapter one is quite striking: what a marvelous idea. And it just carries on -- there's an easy tone, somewhat reminscient of say John Grisham--but it's the almost fairy-tale premise that grabs me.

I read three chapters enraptured.

Backed with a smile.

Daniel Manning wrote 1406 days ago

I suppose the aceptance of a nominal stranger to any household would come under the definition of a mystery in this remarkable story spanning generations. Angela just accepts the presence of this surrogate mother in her formative years, until she becomes to old for the hugs and comfort that all in the family seem to enjoy. Does she possess mystical powers of healing, or does she have special powers that go beyond the idea of next of Kin.
Or is she kin, in some surreal magical way. The lid covering the Brewer house could fall off, and we could be in for a real southern scandal unsurpassed since the days of slavery.
Atmospheric and richly compelling.
Backed with pleasure.
Daniel Manning
No Compatibility.

Christa Wojo wrote 1407 days ago

Fascinating character, Doe. It's bizarre picturing these grown troubled people coming to curl up on a women's lap. Very mysterious. It certainly made me curious to read on. Some people may find something like that hard to believe, but I have a blind sister who rocks constantly whether she's in a chair or not. My boyfriend's autistic son does the same. Rocker's exist.

Original idea. Backed.
Christa

Mr. Nom de Plume wrote 1407 days ago

"Miss Doe," the rocker, loved the opening especially when I realized that the character was not a rock star. This work is obviously on its way to the Editors Desk. Excellent writing. Chuck (started with Paperboy Adventures but my favorite is Literary Agent Blues) Backed.

John Connor wrote 1408 days ago

Lawks-a-mussy, miss Bartlett, but that opening is beautiful! Not something I would seek out myself, but there is a confidence and a magnetism to your creation that reminds me of Glass Menagerie/Mockingbird - not a pale imitation but something that compliments and something I found very enjoyable.

Backed with pleasure.

Daniel Diehl wrote 1411 days ago

Lisa; Thanks so much for backing Deluge - I hope you find time to read it and find it enjoyable. I look forward to having time to spend an evening or two with Brewer House. All Best Dan Diehl

Luke Bramley wrote 1414 days ago

Ah, yes, reminiscent of King's heart-warmers ... The Green Mile etc. Cleverly and beautifully written ... love that closely observed stuff mixed with a warm bourbon feel and just a hint of magic. Splendid. Only possible flaw? Did I really care about Miss Doe? No, interested but not brought in to meet her as it were ... might have preferred an earlier back story ... a build up to the hugger/rocker she becomes. Well done, impressive. Luke. The Kingdom Within.

Vanessa Darnleigh wrote 1415 days ago

Something about the Waltons here if that makes sense...family intimacies laid bare and impossible to avoid for most of us as well...stylish, effortless writing that avoids the clutter of contrivance and artifice...very impressive indeed...well done
Stewart

philip john wrote 1416 days ago

Hi,

Having read the pitch, I was not sure that this was really a book for me. But after reading a little further I am slowly changing my mind! I look forward to reading the balance, when i have time.

Philip John (Dead Reckoning/The Ambassador's Last Post)

jdub wrote 1419 days ago

lisa, good descriptions with nice rhythm to the writing, backed, John Warren Lasting Images, please review jdub

Snpdrgon wrote 1420 days ago

One suggestion, early on: In the sentence that begins "Miss Doe turned her eyes...." you have "hazy blue with cataracts" which obviously refers to her eyes but which, in this construction, awkwardly seems to point to "speech." (Mary "The Qualities of Wood")

and you were absolutely right! the revised version has now been uploaded.

thank you so much for bringing it to my attention!

Lisa~
Brewer House

wespollet wrote 1420 days ago

HI Lisa, Its a very captivating story. I'm reminded as I read of the old saying , "What a tangle web we weave when first we practice to deceive." A Sad Story but one that keeps the pages turning. I BACK the book. Harold Alvin(ICON)Wesley

mvw888 wrote 1421 days ago

A character for the ages, your Miss Doe. There's a mystical aura about her, but really I'd prefer to think that she's just a concentrated living metaphor for a human trait, compassion. Either way, it's very provocative and I'd read this book for that alone. But you add to that a beautiful, poetic writing style and I'm hooked. You have the distance to step back and give us signs of wisdom ("Death destroys decorum...etc.), and you choose just the right details and images to contribute to the general mood of the story. One suggestion, early on: In the sentence that begins "Miss Doe turned her eyes...." you have "hazy blue with cataracts" which obviously refers to her eyes but which, in this construction, awkwardly seems to point to "speech." Just needs to be tweaked around, in my opinion. And this is the only thing I found! This is polished writing; you obviously know what you're doing. Love the story about how Doe came into the family. Excellent.

---Mary
The Qualities of Wood

Lara wrote 1421 days ago

Such atmospheric stuff. Backed
Rosalind
Good for Him and
Making It

Roundstone wrote 1422 days ago

Your pitch has me wishing I was not at work right now so I could start reading. Great writing!
-Rick
In the Roundest of Places

Sharahzade wrote 1423 days ago

BREWER HOUSE
Lisa Candelaria Bartlett

Thank you very much for backing my book, A King in Time. I have added you to my watchlist and will get to reading it and commenting as soon as possible. I have quite a few lined up lately and I am playing catch up.

Until later.
Thank you.
Mary Enck

greeneyes1660 wrote 1423 days ago

Lisa, Love the pitch, love the premise, for me I found the pace a little slow. Part of the reason is because your descriptive writing is so good, that you painted the picture both visually and emotionally so well in the prologue and first chapter that by the second chapter I found myself wanting to get into the meat of the story.

I think with some thinning out this will be a reallly good read.Backed Patricia aka Columbia Layers of the Heart

Kidd1 wrote 1428 days ago

Very well done. You have that southern drawl in your voice, and it adds charm to your writing. Not my usual genre, but not being a genre snob, I read everything, and I liked this very much. Backed.

I hope you will give mine a read and back it if you like it.
Best,
Robert
Golden Conspiracy

CraigD wrote 1429 days ago

This is a touching narrative, and very well handled. Happy to back this for you.
Please consider taking a look at my book, The Job.
Craig

wvjazz56 wrote 1430 days ago

Backed on pitch alone. This was a very enjoyable read. Wishing you the best with it. J.B. Reed - Deadly Shamrocks

Lara wrote 1431 days ago

What a wonderful opening! I dipped in further and found myself in an unusually evocative piece of work. Well done, backed.
Rosalind
Good for Him