Reviews of AFTERMATH
"I loved AFTERMATH. There have been all kinds of histories written about the New London school explosion, but none of them can show how the disaster could shape an individual's life like this novel. With her attention to historical detail, keen sense of empathy, and strong character development, Suzanne Morris personalizes the pathos and life-altering power of America's worst school disaster in a way that no history can approach." - John Ross, Associate Professor of History, Texas College, Tyler, Texas
"In the novel AFTERMATH, Suzanne Morris skillfully describes heroine Delys Lithingate's obsession with the event that disrupted her life, and deftly compels the reader to relive painful fragments forever imbedded in her mind.... The inclusion of Delys' poems, developed over many years following the tragedy, adds depth to the reading experience." - James C. Maroney, Ph.D., Retired History Professor, Lee College, Baytown, Texas
"In the novel AFTERMATH, Suzanne Morris effectively explores both the immediate impact and abiding imprint on bystanders emotionally trapped by circumstances of history. A universal story played out in a small East Texas town, and beyond, it makes for compelling drama just below the surface of life." - Dan K. Utley, Chief Historian, Center for Texas Public History, Texas State University
"From the ashes and rubble of one of America's worst tragedies, Suzanne Morris has created a story of survival, remorse, pain and love in the only way it could be fully expressed--through a novel--one that will break and warm the hearts of readers. As in all her work, she expertly captures the era with its clothing, events, dialogue, and societal norms I still long for. And she does it without intruding on our reading pleasure." - Jim H. Ainsworth, author of thirteen books, including seven novels.
"In Delys Lithingate, a survivor of the 1937 New London school disaster that shocked Texas and the nation, Suzanne Morris has created a memorable character. The continuing and deepening impact that the loss has throughout Delys' life helps us feel again the ongoing reality of that disaster. AFTERMATH is a well told tale of continuing significance in Texas." - Milton Jordan, Past President, East Texas Historical Association
"I have just finished reading AFTERMATH, and found it the most compelling of all of Suzanne Morris' books. I was drawn from the first sentences by her writing style, and as the story unfolded found I could not put it down. I have read the author's other books and enjoyed them for the stories and the descriptions of the settings, but somehow this book was on a different plane for me. I found the poems especially poignant, and Ms. Morris' talent apparent since they were written from the perspective of the main character. Very impressive. I am fervently recommending AFTERMATH to my friends and fellow book club members." - Debbie Flint, Houston
"I just finished reading AFTERMATH, and found it a beautiful book and very well-written. Ms. Morris' imagination, along with her research, really bring her characters to life. The last section of poems caught me by surprise, but they were beautiful. I loved AFTERMATH!" - W. J. Watt, Houston, Texas
"In AFTERMATH Suzanne Morris has achieved her finest work so far. Her attention to detail and character development is superb. The way she weaves the story around Delys Lithingate's come-and-go memory of the London School explosion gives the harrowing historical event an even greater impact on the reader. Through the careful description of practice drills, performances, honor code, and traditions, the Scottish Brigade's uniqueness becomes real along with its overpowering importance as Delys' salvation. Ms. Morris' capable foreshadowing of her romance with Bruce Buckstrum brings about a stunning surprise at the end of the story. The selections from the New London Anthology which follow the closing chapter add a special dimension to this outstanding novel." - Brenda Miles, award-winning syndicated columnist
"This story of the 1937 New London school explosion will grab your attention at the beginning, but you will find so much more as you read on! Ms. Morris' latest novel takes you inside the heart and mind of Delys Lithingate, who survived the tragedy. But as is the case with survivors of any traumatic event, she was not left unscathed. This is a fascinating read!" - Tammy B., Denver, Colorado
"Wow!!! I have finished AFTERMATH. The verbal description of the explosion made me think I was there. (Ms. Morris) got into the mindset so completely. Being a romantic, I kept hoping that Delys and Bruce would be able to overcome all that had happened. The Anthology was wonderful and helped me to really understand how the tragedy affected them and all the choices they made. It was a tragic story- wonderfully, beautifully written; informative and thought-provoking. Thank you." - Becky Gilly
"I have read a lot about the New London school explosion. I used to take my youth group to New London every year, and they were always moved by the story and the monument. In AFTERMATH, Suzanne Morris paints a very good emotional portrait of the disaster. Delys Lithingate is a wonderfully complex character. I have taught grief workshops for years, and Ms. Morris captures the range of emotions and thoughts and life complications. This is a stunning novel, deeply moving and heartbreaking; hard to put down. Ms. Morris is a gifted writer and poet." - Mike Glenn, Palestine, Texas
"Having just finished AFTERMATH, I have to say, I am emotionally drained. I loved this book, and did not want it to end. The characters became real, and my hopes and fears for them were borne out. The ending, and the poetry that followed, had me in tears. I reread all the poems, which were so poignant and telling. The poem, "Longing," made me long for more, and question my conclusions. In my own mind, I was writing other final chapters, but then decided, no, AFTERMATH ends the only way it could. This is a brilliant novel." - Karen Parsons, Palestine, Texas
"I just finished reading AFTERMATH-- loved it, couldn't put it down!" - Sue Behling, Hot Springs Village, AR
"In AFTERMATH...I discovered an intriguing story of a fictionalized young student who survived the (New London tragedy) but struggled in coming to terms with its aftermath. The story is...beautifully told in recollection by Morris's character, Delys Lithingate..... The text is followed by a poetic anthology..."written" by Delys in her struggle to recall and memorialize the people and events of that terrible day. A compelling story, lovingly researched and extremely well-crafted." - The Jacksonville Progress, Jacksonville, Texas
"I have just finished reading AFTERMATH, and it was wonderful. I could hardly put it down. As with Suzanne Morris' other books, I immediately put myself into the story and felt I was right there with Delys, feeling her pain, frustrations and sorrow. AFTERMATH is a haunting tale...truly a masterpiece!" - Joanna Williams, Rosebud, Texas
"Suzanne Morris isn't gentle about introducing her principal character, but opens her story with a heartbreaking punch to the gut...a horrific school explosion that will cast a pall over a community for all time. Survivor Delys Lithingate bears crippling emotional scars. Her great need is soon juxtaposed on a venerable high school drill team known as the Scottich Brigade. How she blossoms in this organization, with its fundamental teachings of duty, honor, and personal responsibility, bring some joyful moments against the sad backdrop of her loss. In reality, there is loss, too, in the gradual disappearance of such organizations from our lives today. AFTERMATH is a compelling story of a young woman's coming of age. Ms. Morris hit the ball out of the park with this one." - John B. Stewart, Texas City, Texas
"I finished AFTERMATH last week, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. While Delys' experience was linked to the London School tragedy, how many people, young and old, face similar challenges with the many tragedies of our times...? I have been a loyal follower of Suzanne Morris since reading GALVESTON. As a writer of non-fiction, I admire the creativity and imagination of fiction writers, especially historical fiction due to the extensive research often involved. Suzanne is a master of the art." - Catherine Garcia-Prats, renowned author and lecturer on family relationships, Houston, Texas
"I just finished reading the wonderful book, AFTERMATH. This was so much more than the historical account of a terrible disaster. Ms. Morris propelled us into the lives of her characters. I wanted to read it all in one session!" - Ginette Levac, Hot Springs Village, AR
"AFTERMATH is Suzanne Morris' best novel ever. The painting of the scenes and the feelings expressed by the narrator are excellent. I loved the book, and especially the poetry at the end. Beautiful. I hope Ms. Morris never stops writing." - Carol Ford, Baytown, Texas
"I read AFTERMATH on Christmas day. What a remarkable book. It affected me on so many levels.... Suzanne Morris' perspective is phenomenal. My parents were both first responders to the New London explosion. I knew three different students at the school that day. Not until the first reunion did they confide in me this information, after knowing each for 15 years. It continues to shock me that they never spoke of it.... Ms. Morris' intimate knowledge of the Scottish Brigade is fascinating. The conflicts Delys encountered (in this organization) were powerful and so intuitive...the passages evocative. I am sure this novel will be a huge success. I enjoyed it immensely. I know the research had to be both heartbreaking and exhausting." - Pat Walker Graham, Jacksonville, Texas
"I just finished AFTERMATH. I do most of my reading at night after I go to bed, and though I would tell myself, just a few more pages, I could not put the book down. Amazing writing; and what a twist at the end! I am telling people about AFTERMATH and all the books Ms. Morris has written." - Millie Warden, Cypress, Texas
"I absolutely loved AFTERMATH! Although I had never heard of the London School tragedy before, its effect on Delys captivated me. My heart ached for her at times, rejoiced with her at times, and at other times I even felt as if I were in her skin. Never before had a fictional character affected me in such a way. .... Only a dedicated Brigadier could have written so perfectly about what the S. F. Austin High School Scottish Brigade truly was to its members. EVERYTHING, indeed! .... I will always wonder what happened to Bruce and wish for his return and reunion with Delys. In the meantime, it appears that Delys has quite a future as a poet. Her poems are touching and enable her to express her strong feelings in a gentle manner. My thanks to Suzanne Morris for writing this compelling book." - Rilda Whitmire, Houston, Texas
"I was seven when the New London explosion occurred, and today is the first time I have ever seen this aged newsreel reporting the actual event, which was fascinating to me." (Note: see link to Red River Public Radio interview above). "As I watched the nurses and doctors on the scene, I thought of my parents. My mother was an RN, and father an MD. I wish I knew for sure whether my father went to the scene or not. I recall that area medically trained volunteers went. He didn't discuss it much with our family, I think for fear it would frighten his children, four of whom were in the age range of the school children at the New London school. Suzanne Morris has an amazing gift for telling an engaging story and I absolutely loved reading AFTERMATH!" - Mary Alice Bone, MD, Jacksonville, Texas
"I finished AFTERMATH last week. What a unique work, beautifully done! I knew very little about the New London tragedy. I was actually reading one evening when the news came on and it was the 80th anniversary, complete with pictures and newscasts. Very timely. .... Ms. Morris has honored the Scottish Brigade in writing, and done so in such an interesting way. I think others will see now into the heart and sounds of what we (who were members) know. I was interested in seeing how one with such a troubled youth could have drilled beside my mother in those years. I assumed that at the time all of the young women had mothers, dads, siblings, just like me, and lived in a protected, typical family. Well, now that Delys opened my eyes, I can think back on so many who did not. Very reflective. And Brigade provided that "place." My thanks to Suzanne Morris for writing a book with such personal meaning." - Marsha Eckermann, Houston, Texas
Praise for LOOK BACK WITH LONGING,
Book One of the Clearharbour Trilogy
by Fred Tarpley
"After an absence of two decades, Houstonian Suzanne Morris returns with another distinctive work of romantic fiction, LOOK BACK WITH LONGING, the first segment of the Clearharbour Trilogy. In 2006, Elizabeth’s Legacy and Clearharbour will conclude the multi-generational saga set primarily in Houston and England.
Morris continues her successes with intricate plots, sharp characterizations, manifold locales, and interwoven conflicts, found in GALVESTON (1976), KEEPING SECRETS (1979), and WIVES AND MISTRESSES (1986). In her latest work, the narrative unfolds in a quartet of two-year segments between 1914 and 1931.
Told with an omniscient point of view entering the consciousness of several provocative characters, the novel focuses on Geneva Sterling, a red-haired, green-eyed beauty with talent, resolve, and endurance. Orphaned shortly before her 16th birthday, when her parents die in an accident while traveling, Geneva remains in Houston as the ward of her mother’s cousin. Victor Calais, the husband of the guardian, introduces Geneva to art photography as well as deep, human attachment in his studio behind the family home in Houston Heights. Her decision to model for him triggers lingering complications in her life.
Geneva’s talent and classical training at Madame Linsky’s dance studio in Houston attracts British variety dancer Tony Selby, and the pair tour the vaudeville circuit with their charismatic performances. The relationship offstage is as intense as their dances on stages from the West Coast to the Palace in New York. Plans for marriage are obstructed, however, by Geneva’s past, her new guardian, and a menacing banker who manages her trust fund. Their happiness is further threatened in England when Tony is subjected to the impending loss of his father’s estate and the psychotic vengeance of his former lover.
Especially impressive in the novel are episodes demonstrating Morris’ cinematic writing style, creating on the page what Hitchcock so brilliantly achieved on the screen. For example, the royal performance at the London Palladium by Geneva and Tony juxtaposes the movements of their dance, Chimaera, against excruciating tension in their personal lives. The scene intensifies the technical agony of the dance, the emotion of the performance, and the drama of the situation that has erupted in the plot.
Morris writes, "...turning...turning...turning. Tony’s hands making a stirrup for her foot, then lifting her on his shoulder, and now in an arabesque, she was turning...turning...then swirling down Tony’s body to the floor, falling in love expressed in a series of alluring pirouettes, ending in a swooning backbend over the collector’s arm, and up and up, higher and higher, a windmill churning. As the collector with his outsized net romanced the butterfly, the police romanced Emelye’s abductor with a London-sized net of trained professionals."
Meticulous research entertains and informs the reader with graphic and resonating excursions into the mores, fashions, and events of each era. If Morris reports that an unexpected snow chilled Houston or that a particular dance step was in vogue, her words mirror history with accuracy. With her large cast of characters, interest in art, dance, theater, photography, and finance, the representation is authentic. Research trips to England, tours of theaters, familiarity with historical events and daily life coinciding with the timeline, and interviews with vaudeville performers, dancers, and trust officers serve her fiction well.
Despite a dense population of characters, there is no wondering about who’s who because each is named aptly, delineated uniquely, and described in broad but incisive strokes.
The plot constantly accelerates with stunningly unpredictable but plausible twists, misjudgments, and reversals. Readers trying to second-guess the next revelation will usually agree that alternate paths have been foreshadowed with subtlety. Recurring as a theme is the struggle of Geneva and others to understand and accept divine and human love in the adversity of an imperfect world. The book succeeds on numerous levels as mesmerizing fiction.
Mystery and suspense engage the reader at every turn, and more than one character is a likely perpetrator of each transgression. By the final page, major conflicts have been resolved, but enough strands of the plot remain to haunt the reader. The enticement will compel the curious to follow Geneva, Tony, et al, into Elizabeth’s Legacy and Clearharbour."
The late Fred Tarpley was Professor Emeritus of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce and director of literary criticism for the Texas University Interscholastic League contest. Dr. Tarpley passed away earlier this year.
LOOK BACK WITH LONGING,
Review by Jo An Martin in the
Review of Texas Books, Lamar University
"Suzanne Morris' many-layered plots and sub-plots offer twists and turns to keep the reader completely engrossed.... The strong sense of place reveals her background of English literature.... The reader develops a close relationship with the characters, never wanting the story to end.
Fortunately, ELIZABETH'S LEGACY and CLEARHARBOUR will be published this year to complete the trilogy."
Praise for ELIZABETH’S LEGACY,
Book Two of the CLEARHARBOUR TRILOGY,
by Fred Tarpley
"The dramatic and stylistic delights of LOOK BACK WITH LONGING (2005) accelerate in Elizabeth’s Legacy (2006), book two of the CLEARHARBOUR TRILOGY by Suzanne Morris.. In a masterful manipulation of characters, locales, and world events, the story which began in Houston, later shifting to England, returns to those locales, expanding to France for pivotal episodes.
The first volume of the trilogy presented four segments between 1914 and 1931. In Elizabeth’s Legacy, a quartet of segments occur between 1931 and 1945
Geneva Sterling, first introduced in Houston when she became orphaned just before her sixteenth birthday, continues to be a focal character. This installment of the trilogy covers her life between age thirty-one and forty-five. She dominates many aspects of the story as she takes up residency in Cornwall after she marries Tony Selby, an Englishman who had become her professional dance partner in Houston.
The plot is rich with shifting scenes, themes, complications, and characters, many continuing from the earlier volume. However, the intricate narrative never conceals basic information needed to understand previous events. Second-guessing the twisting action is unwise because Morris is rarely predictable.
Geneva shares the emotional spotlight with Emelye, her daughter by Tony, and with Elizabeth, Tony’s daughter from his brief and tragic marriage to the psychotic Jane Tremont. Elizabeth carries physical and emotional scars inflicted by her mother, who had tried to end the daughter’s life in the suicidal car crash in which she succeeded in scorning Tony and taking her own life. Elizabeth’s legacy from her mother is one of guilt, self-consciousness, and attempts to hide her leg scar with black stockings. She takes refuge in guarded relationships and intense study of philosophy at Cambridge.
When Geneva arrives from Houston to begin a new life with Tony, Emelye, and Elizabeth at Clearharbour Farm in Cornwall, her serenity is short-lived. Difficulties with Emelye making a transition from the educational system she knew in Houston and with Elizabeth’s damaged psyche bring new complications into Geneva’s life. Soon the two girls become central characters. Tony, who owns a theatre in London’s West End, is occupied with staging plays, and he is able to spend little time with his family in Cornwall. In quick succession, Geneva gives birth to four more children, including one with serious respiratory defects, the outcome of which severely alters Geneva’s life.
As international war approaches, Geneva agrees to allow Emelye to return to Houston to attend high school while living with the Younger family, who had been her close friends there. Emelye’s infatuation with the Youngers’ son James, and Elizabeth’s later romance with him when he comes to England as a military pilot, brings unexpected travail to the family.
Morris demonstrates her gift for weaving a rich fabric of historical detail into her story. Painstaking newspaper research and a month-long visit to Cornwall, London, and French settings enabled her to write comfortably about the three cultures. Gustave Flaubert deserves recognition as the pioneer of the mot juste – the apt word –for which he searched tirelessly before he committed himself to a vocabulary choice. Like Flaubert, in her pitch-perfect expression for each character and dramatic situation, Morris never fails to deliver lexicon that is faithful to both denotation and connotation. Among American novelists, she deserves recognition as an heir apparent to Flaubert’s precision. Furthermore, she dresses each character in authentic styles, plants her English gardens with indigenous flora, and captures the essence of each individual character’s speech.
The writing blends characterization and realistic settings at the same time it propels the plot and enters into a character’s consciousness.. For example, those multiple goals are achieved within a few sentences about Elizabeth’s misfortune as a flower girl at the marriage of Geneva and Tony: “Elizabeth advanced a few paces along the last row of seats. Her basket was shaking in her hands, and worse, her knees – she suddenly realized – were positively quaking. Now as she paused at the foot of the aisle, waiting for Serena to reach the head and turn off to the left, her feet were as inert as if they were two stones mortared in the floor beneath her. Soon she saw Father nod encouragingly: And now! After a few more agonizing moments, she stepped off. And when she did, her knees buckled with such immediacy, she hardly knew that she had fallen until she found herself sprawled clumsily in the white-carpeted aisle, her elbows poking out, her chin resting on the basket handle. It is my punishment. I should have burnt to death with my mother.”
Attention to details of the blackouts, shortages, bomb raids, and disruption of routine by World War II creates verisimilitude in settings for her dramatic scenes. Equal detail enlivens accounts of theatrical activity at the William & Mary theatre in London, with actual performers and plays of the era blended into the narrative.
Embedded in the novel is foreshadowing of events that will no doubt transpire during the middle of the twentieth century in the conclusion of the multi-generational saga in book three, CLEARHARBOUR. Morris delivers stunning new maturity in the themes and substance of the trilogy as a worthy companion to her earlier novels GALVESTON, KEEPING SECRETS, SKYCHILD, and WIVES AND MISTRESSES."
Jim H. Ainsworth, Texas author,
praises the first two books of the CLEARHARBOUR TRILOGY:
“Suzanne Morris does a masterful job of keeping readers involved in complex plots and subplots.... I am sure that the characters and plot will be with me indefinitely. I cared about all of them– even the ones who were not admirable. Even with locations in two countries, I always knew where I was and wondered where I was heading next.... I was intrigued and impressed by what had to be in-depth research. I kept wondering how long she had to live in England to be so nimble with dialogue, colloquialisms, and locales.... I could see the location and feel the emotions of the characters.... Morris captures the drama of wartime and its effect on soldiers and civilians.... A very rewarding and entertaining read. I look forward to the third book.”
- Jim Ainsworth’s most recent work of fiction is GO DOWN LOOKING, the fourth novel in the Follow The Rivers series.
CLEARHARBOUR AN ENORMOUS SUCCESS,
Book Three of the CLEARHARBOUR TRILOGY,
by Jim Ainsworth
"I entered this book and the time frame effortlessly because of Suzanne Morris' seamless integration of all prior events and characters with this final book. Page after page, line after line, she skillfully brought back the details of the personalities and lives of the characters with a deft touch. I know this was extremely difficult, especially with a large cast of characters who are complex, believable, and have depth-- even the minor ones.
"I found comfort, somehow, in her portrayal of this fine family, because even with wealth, status and talent, the Selbys had serious problems and they struggled to rise above them.
"I meant to write down the phrases I loved most, but failed to because I did not want to leave any scene long enough to make notes. I finished reading the novel then read the Epilogue twice before I reluctantly closed it. I congratulate and salute Suzanne Morris. Clearharbour is an enormous success."
--Jim H. Ainsworth, Author of the Follow the Rivers series
Praise for Clearharbour
Book Three of the Clearharbour Trilogy
by Fred Tarpley
Suzanne Morris orchestrates a rare master class for fiction in Clearharbour, the concluding volume of her trilogy of the same name. Elements of style, storytelling, and drama harmonize in a stunning creation.
Set in Houston and England between 1914 and 1962, the Clearharbour Trilogy follows several simultaneous joys and tribulations within the Selby family. Between 1914 and 1931, Look Back With Longing (2005) introduces Geneva Sterling, a Houstonian, and Tony Selby, an Englishman, who team up as professional dancers. Between 1931 and 1945, Elizabeth’s Legacy (2006) focuses on the emotional scars of Elizabeth, Tony’s daughter from a doomed marriage to a psychotic woman.
Between 1945 and 1962, Clearharbour (2007) resolves dramatic strands evolving in the previous installments and introduces additional trials encountered by the five Selby children and their aging parents. Like the earlier volumes, Clearharbour is characterized by Morris’s trademark precision and reliability.
Preciseness radiates from her sensitivity to language, exacting research, intricate plotting, and intense observation skills. Vivid, concrete details energize settings and characters. Complex logistics of the trilogy require accuracy in alluding to exact times and places. It is not sufficient to refer to an actual restaurant in Houston or London by name. In the context of the scene, it must be operating at the specific time portrayed within the forty-eight-year-span of the action. For the theatrical background so important in Clearharbour, matching play openings and prominent actors with dates and existing stages also requires meticulous research.
Dramatic elements mesh throughout the trilogy, clarifying and extending previous events. Each book stands independently, but every time a character or theme reappears, further illumination occurs without any taint of repetition. In the concluding volume, Elizabeth does not materialize until page 237, well past the midway point. But since page 8, Elizabeth has made her presence felt and has been discussed and remembered by various characters, who add new information about her. The complex integration of conflicts and characters represents a tour de force in the crafting of the trilogy.
Another achievement of the writing is distinctiveness of each character linked to wardrobes, speech, and attitudes faithful to the era and location. With enough characters to populate a sizeable community, Morris gives each a compatible name and memorable idiosyncrasies. For example, Deirdre, the Selbys’French-Canadian daughter-in-law, is an edgy artist who keeps her feet cool by constantly removing her shoes. Effortless identification of the multitude of characters results from their indelible traits. Continuing the tradition of Gustave Flaubert’s mot juste, vocabulary choices employ “the apt word” to convey the meaning and emotion that complement the scene. Thus, in Morris’s prose, a generic flower never grows in a garden. It is always a particular plant, faithful to the locale, season, and mood of the scene. And a gourmet could easily develop an appetite and prepare a year of menus from the specific dishes described and placed on the tables in the three novels.
By using an omniscient point of view in the narration, Morris allows the reader to enter the consciousness of a variety of characters to add another vantage point in witnessing the events recalled. These omniscient interpretations of the same incident by multiple characters enrich the narrative with “Rashomon”-like perspectives. With American and British characters, the revelation of thoughts requires the distinction in print between something “gray”and something “grey,”depending upon the national language patterns of the character. Another dimension of the narrative is underscored by the effective use of italics to represent the unspoken thoughts of characters in dialogue exchanges and times of reflection. The dialogue contains unobtrusive but lively and generational nuances of American or English speech.
Reliability in Morris’s fiction brings assurance that no matter how much human drama surfaces in the 1,400 pages of her three volumes, melodrama will be avoided. In sequences of high emotion, sentiment will be strong, but sentimentality will be absent.
Whenever the action veers in a surprising direction, the reader will find earlier foreshadowing, often subtle. Resolutions are satisfying although not always conclusive to the extent of not allowing the reader to sense that remnants of the action retain some degree of momentum. Thus the characters and the incidents are given life beyond the final page. In restrained measures, irony permeates the intertwined motifs of Morris’s fiction.
Evidence of newspaper and archival research, as well as lifetime knowledge of Houston and investigative visits to England enrich details that invigorate Clearharbour. The careers of characters in dance, theatre, art, religion, and oil corporations combined with their tastes in poetry, cooking, gardening, architecture, and fashion require the creator to write convincingly about their interests.
Because poetry is a vital factor in the romantic secrets of Elizabeth Selby, Morris composes poems for Clearharbour to be explicated by Selby family members in efforts to understand Elizabeth’s choice of a reclusive life in a Massachusetts Shaker colony.
Actual sonnets by Edmund Spenser are quoted in tense scenes as part of Elizabeth’s romantic alliance, as well as in the scene resolving her anguish. When Elizabeth writes an autobiographical play seeking reconciliation with her father Tony, a theatre owner, Morris must include a portion of a credible script as part of the novel. The play then feeds the drama and contributes to its denouement when it is performed at the Alley Theatre in Houston with members of the Selby family in the audience and a sister, Elvira, on stage portraying Elizabeth. Like the poems, the play becomes an integral part of the novel.
Earlier when Elvira begins her stage career in London, she is cast in classic plays, and her experiences become part of the drama in the novel as she helps a fellow actor discover a meaningful interpretation for his role as Richard III in terms of the character’s “being empty instead of filled”and his “separation from society.” For Elvira’s role as Mrs. Alving in Ghosts, after a long struggle, she finds the key to the character by “burrowing into her heart through her relationship with her ill-fated son whom she adored.”
The quest of fictional actors struggling to understand authentic stage roles known to the reader makes for satisfying interaction, but finding ingenious literary explications of famous plays delivers a literary bonus. In Clearharbour the novelist is thus challenged to supply plausible poetry and to demonstrate professional knowledge of stage drama to be acceptable in a work of fiction. In this feat, Morris again succeeds.
Appropriately, Clearharbour is dedicated to the late William Goyen, a fellow Texan and Morris’s early writing mentor. He too was a master of the art of fiction.
For the reader who seeks entertaining fiction, Clearharbour is a trilogy that spans the heart of the twentieth century with memorable characters and significant dramatic themes. For the reader who values virtuosity in the craft of fiction, Clearharbour is an extraordinary model.
“A good, old-fashioned, wonderfully readable book.... With subtlety and meticulous detail, Mrs. Morris has created a vibrant montage of yesterdays, alive with characters who have a tantalizing aura of familiarity. Her book has substance and entertainment in excellent measure.”
– Connie Granger, Newport News (VA) Daily Press
“A book that keeps you up nights reading to find out how it’s all going to end.”
– Peggy Shehan, Salem (MA) Evening News
“When I saw the pages dwindling, I truly regretted knowing that the haunting story was coming to an end.... I’m really impressed with the book.”– novelist William Goyen
“A thick, deeply felt, meticulously researched tale of three women belonging to different generations but linked by a secret bond.”
– Mary Brinkerhoff, Dallas Morning News
“Suzanne Morris effectively toys with time, working with the spooky solitude of an island city to project a magical sort of atmosphere in GALVESTON. Flashbacks and fastforwards keep us on edge, and past and future constantly seem to rumble by each other.... GALVESTON will surely be a pleasurable addition to summer reading for many.”
– Vance Muse, Houston Chronicle
“(Morris)...has a dreamlike obsession with the past and with the politics of family life.... GALVESTON is an impressive story.”
– Christopher Givan, Los Angeles Times
“The actions of the involved families fit together like a complicated Chinese puzzle, a difficult feat which the author accomplishes without a single false more.... The final picture is devastating, as the characters move from one emotional brinkmanship to another, and as their marriages are blasted apart by deceits.... Suzanne Morris writes with all the bark off. She has a capacious imagination for characterization and psychological dilemmas, although fortuitously she neatly avoids any Jungian mythic patterns. She lets the presence of the past lean upon her unsuspecting characters.”
– Bernice Williams Foley, Columbus (OH) Dispatch
“The kind of book likely to ensnare readers in a conflict over whether to read it in sequence or read the ending to relieve the tensions of accelerating suspense. GALVESTON is reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s REBECCA.”
–Holly Hill, Westchester (NY) Rockland Newspapers
“(Suzanne Morris) is a good storyteller, laying on her background with utmost care, and then drawing her characters with similar care, fitting them logically and carefully into their milieu.... KEEPING SECRETS spreads widely for it not only tells the personal stories of the characters but paints in the background of Mexico when Huerta, Diaz, Villa and Zapata were contesting for control of the nation. Too, there are glimpses of the German chancellory where an official named Zimmerman sent an infamous telegram which made it plain that the Germans were not going to respect American neutrality, and we know what Woodrow Wilson did when that ball was in his court.... The novel is powerfully done with an undeniable richness to the tapestry of love, hate, envy and greed that Suzanne Morris has woven.”
– Victor P. Hass, Midlands Business Journal, Omaha, NE
“(A) well-written, complicated suspense novel centered in pre-WWI San Antonio, This book really lives (up) to its title– everyone has secrets.... The book forces you to put the pieces of the puzzle together and form your own conclusion as to the final outcome.”
– Voice of Youth Advocates
“Morris provides more than enough historical detail to substantiate the tale, even at times obscuring the underlying plot. But, the persistent reader will be satisfied right up to the conclusion. Morris’ novel is certainly a welcome addition and will make superb reading....”
– Amy Frey, Imprint, West Hartford, CT
“KEEPING SECRETS...follows in the romantic tradition of the author’s first novel, GALVESTON. In the spring of 1914, two women arrive in San Antonio to begin new lives--
Electra Cabot who has many secrets hidden in her heart, and young Camille Devera whose job it is to unmask these secrets. The interweaving of their lives makes for a spellbinding book you won’t want to put down– even after you’ve finished it.”
– Charleston (SC) Evening Post
"Suzanne Morris’ KEEPING SECRETS, like her first novel GALVESTON, could be called an “old-fashioned” novel in the most complimentary sense, for both deliver a dedication to storytelling, well-structured plots, and characters who are believable.... The novelist’s detailed research adds a dimension of delight without ever a sense of intrusion upon the action. When Suzanne Morris reports that her characters dance tango or a Strauss waltz, wear a homburg or a Gainsborough hat, and go to the theater to see Billie Burke of “Birth of a Nation,” the reader can be sure each detail that has been woven into the fiction is faithful to the era and to San Antonio.”
– Fred Tarpley, The Texas Humanist
“Readers with plenty of time on their hands, who ask for monumental novels, will enjoy this big, complicated romantic saga, set in Texas during WWI.... Unusually rich character development keeps the reader involved through the convoluted mystery, intrigue, and romance sub-plots....”
– Library Journal
“...the rapidly effervescing series of popping secrets will keep many readers turning the pages.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Mrs. Morris has done a superb job of capturing the flavor, speech, leisureliness, and the ambiance of San Antonio in the early 1900s shortly before U.S. entry into World War I. The amount of research she must have done boggles my mind.... This is an intricate, meticulously plotted novel with well rounded characters who represent common attitudes of the time. It would be worth reading if only for the history. Fortunately it gives us an interesting story as well. Suzanne Morris has done a most credible job with this one.”
– Marilyn Cooley, The Houston Chronicle
“Houston writer Suzanne Morris...has with her third book produced a novel of unusual sensitivity and poignancy. Again with a Texas setting, though contemporary this time, SKYCHILD deals with a young mother’s struggle to admit to herself that her young son is autistic, then with her efforts to heal him. Among the more fascinating portions of the book are the chapters written from the point of view of (the child) Ian.”
– Shay Bennett, Abilene (TX) Reporter-News
“Houston writer Suzanne Morris breaks away from her field of historical novels...to present the relatively uncharted world of the autistic child, the child caught up in fantasy to the exclusion or reality. (SKYCHILD) represents a writer’s courageous jump from genre writing to the contemporary scene– Ms. Morris’ willingness to try something new as an artist....”
– Gail Gillaland, Dallas Times Herald
"SKYCHILD’s strength lies in the use by author Morris of a dual point of view. The same events, separately described by both Monica and Ian, become clues to the puzzle of the child’s behavior. The sections consisting of Ian’s thoughts as he struggles to find the key for returning to the place he is certain he belongs are particularly engrossing and believable.... SKYCHILD will provide the reader a new perspective on a little-understood condition and some insights into the intricacies of relationships."
– Judyth Rigler, The Monitor, McAllen, Texas
“Ms. Morris has fashioned a moving account out of the fragile relationship between an autistic child and his parents. The author has also achieved the remarkable feat of analyzing young Ian’s thoughts so that they seem completely plausible.... There is richness and depth in the relationship between a mother and her special child.”
– Marirose Arendale, the Chattanooga (TN) Times
“The diagnosis of their four-year-old son’s autism shatters the fragile marriage of a middle-class couple, in this poignant yet unsentimental novel.... The engrossing plot of this book grows out of the personal problems of its lifelike characters.... Highly recommended for popular fiction collections.”
– Joyce Smothers, Library Journal
“In this contemporary novel of family relationships, Houston writer Suzanne Morris has done a creditable job of creating the special, fearful world of the autistic child and the guilt-ridden, desperate, question-filled world of his parents. Monica’s coming to terms with Ian’s problems and with her guilt...keeps the reader turning the pages. But it is Ian, his thoughts, his fears, his attempts to make order out of what is to him a chaotic, alien world, who makes the book come alive.”
– Lianne Mercer, Houston Chronicle
“The fear of all parents that their children may not be normal gives SKYCHILD a universal appeal, with the same careful research and intricate narrative found in Morris’ previous works. Rather than documenting the past as a backdrop for her characters, this time she offers the same painstaking attention to details of child psychology as catalyst for the isolated struggle of a young mother to sustain her troubled son amid other trying interpersonal conflicts.... The most daring aspect of the novel for both writer and reader is the occasional interspersed chapter with Ian’s point of view, revealing the inner workings of a child’s mind from crib to pre-school. In sharp contrast to the abnormality of Ian’s behavior as viewed by his mother, doctors and other adults, the child’s own version of his actions takes on a systematic logic meshing with his understanding of the universe. It is here in the high artistic risk of entering a pre-schooler’s consciousness that Morris e xcels in providing new dimensions to conventional narrative.”
– Fred Tarpley, the Dallas Morning News
WIVES AND MISTRESSES
“WIVES AND MISTRESSES will have fiction fans staggering through their days bleary-eyed and sleepy and bed-mates begging, “Please, put away the book and turn out the light– it’s late.” The wonderfully composed story spans four generations of Texas women in two families. The Gerrards and Leiders are bound by friendship that survives the years and countless tragedies, and in the end, that decades-old bond turns to romantic love.”
– Sue Allison, United Press International
“The book is meticulously constructed, but it is by no means stiff. The planning, arrangement and execution of form and style is never brazenly apparent. It is artfully hidden and never bothers the reader. The book is easy to read, yet contains genuine depth and careful detail.... An excellent, believable story or stories of people so real you feel they’re your best friends and you, somehow, are involved, very personally in their lives....”
– Anniston (Alabama) Star
“It spans a fantastic yet engrossing story of four women, their husbands and lovers, spread over several generations. Morris...draws robust portraits of prominent and rival familes, the Leiders and Gerrards, and four women who bear the brunt of the book’s live action.”
– Palm Beach Life
“A rich canvas of a southern family spanning the years from 1887 to 1960.... A book you have trouble putting down and one you don’t want to finish.”
– Eastern Washington Book Review Council
“Ms. Morris manages to combine the lure of romantic fiction with the solidity of painstaking research. That research m akes the tale more credible–and thus more fascinating–and the wealth of historical detail woven subtly through a well-told storyline provides plenty of suspense.... The author is also adept at portraying characters, good and bad, so that they seem almost real. The use of a single home as a focal point is also effective. WIVES AND MISTRESSES is an engrossing, multi-generational saga....”
– Judyth Rigler, syndicated reviewer for 28 Texas publications
“Houstonians will be intrigued by Suzanne Morris’ new novel. Beginning in the village of Harrisburg in 1887, the story moves to Houston’s Main Street and to the area of McKinney Street where it meets Cullen Boulevard. The novel ends in 1960. Houston becomes something of a character itself, growing from a cotton-factoring town to an oil-glutted seaport well within four generations. Houstonians rarely think of the city as a romantic setting, but Morris has turned back the clock to show Houston as vibrant, youthful and violent.... (In WIVES AND MISTRESSES), tension relies on vital information being withheld to the ruination of the characters’ lives. The ending exposes those secrets, leaving the reader to hope that the characters have now learned to be honest with themselves and with each other.... (Morris’) gift for exact detail is fine-honed. She also gives us fully developed characters, and her use of suspense is skillful.... Abuse, escape, co-dependency, destruction, rebirth: These difficult themes are handled by Morris with confidence and understanding.”
- Karen V. Britton, The Houston Chronicle
“No Texas writer tells a story better than Suzanne Morris. Her precise fictional craft introduced in GALVESTON (1976) and refined in KEEPING SECRETS (1979), and SKYCHILD (1981) has matured dramatically in WIVES AND MISTRESSES.... Conflict in each chapter propels the reader into the next with tantalizing foreshadowing that is always fulfilled. The economic development of Houston as a cotton and rail center, the age of oil begun at Spindletop, the disastrous Galveston storm of September 1900, and the opening of the Port of Houston lend authenticity to the fiction, but the story never pauses to let history intrude unless the events are a natural part of personal dramas unfolding.... The pace of the novel is sustained by a spare narrative style that never gropes for the right word or injects an excessive phrase.”
– Fred Tarpley, The Dallas Morning News