Marianne Langner Zeitlin
Zephyr Press (July 2012), trade paper original (ISBN 0983297053 / 9780983297055)
Fiction, 300 pages
A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (August 3, 2012), which provided an advance reader’s copy and compensation.
Opening Lines: “At nine-thirty on a cool November morning in 1977, Elizabeth Guaragna picked up a copy of the New York Times from a a vendor at her subway station and, in anticipation of cramped subway space, opened it to the entertainment section, folded it back in double, and turned to go. The announcement that Alfred Rossiter had left the music conglomerate he had founded to open a new agency hit her between the eyes.”
Comments: Marianne Langner Zeitlin’s third novel, Motherless Child, draws on her background in the “business” side of the music business (classical division) to frame an engrossing tale of family secrets, seasoned with elements of psychological mystery and a touch of romance.
The Guaragna family knows loss all too well–the death of a child, the abrupt decline of a musical career, the disappearance of a mother–and for decades, they’ve placed the blame for those losses on music impresario Albert Rossiter. Now, in what one might expect to be the declining years of his career, Rossiter is instead launching a high-profile new management firm, and the youngest Guaragna child, Elizabeth, sees an opportunity to learn more about her family’s nemesis. While she lacks management experience, she possesses the musical knowledge to land a position as Rossiter’s assistant, and–calling herself Lisa Sullivan–begins to know her enemy. Rossiter’s would-be biographer, George Wentworth, is also getting to know him, and what he is learning could reshape Elizabeth’s entire understanding of her family’s history.
Shifting perspectives between Elizabeth and George until she ultimately brings them together, Zeitlin’s narrative draws the reader into both characters’ search for the truth about the complicated and powerful Albert Rossiter and immerses them in the culture business of the late 1970s (a time that makes Eizabeth/Lisa’s charade more plausible than it might be now). With a plot that takes some unexpected turns–and characters who do the same–Motherless Child should appeal to fans of thought-provoking women’s fiction.
Book description, from the publisher’s website:
Set in the world of classical music, Marianne Langner Zeitlin’s third novel is a suspenseful page-turner that takes us on a young woman’s quest to understand her family’s difficult past. Under an assumed name, Elizabeth Guaragna takes a job with the famed music manager Alfred Rossiter, who was once her late mother’s lover. Rossiter’s name was synonymous with evil in Elizabeth’s home: he had lured her mother away from the family, and then used his power to squelch her father’s career as a concert pianist. After Elizabeth meets the writer George Wentworth, who is writing a biography of Rossiter, she begins to learn that the truth she is seeking is far different from what she had been led to believe.
Motherless Child contains a Book Group Discussion Guide.