The Specer (Waxwood Series: Book 1)
Approximate length: 250 pages
To what lengths will one go to exorcise a specter?
One rainy morning in 1892, people gather to mourn the death of San Francisco socialite Penelope Alderdice. Among them is a strange little woman named Bertha Ross, who claims to have known "Grace" in the 1850's in the small town of Waxwood. But Penelope's granddaughter, Vivian, has never heard of Grace or Waxwood.
Bertha reveals surprising details about Grace's life in Waxwood, including a love affair with Evan, an artist and member of Brandywine, Waxwood's art colony.Vivian's mother, Larissa, insists Bertha is an imposter who has come not to mourn a woman she knew in her youth but to stir up trouble.
Vivian, however, suspects the key to her grandmother's life and her own lies in Waxwood. She journeys to Brandywine where she meets Verina Jones, Evan's niece, and discovers a packet of letters her grandmother wrote forty years ago about her time in Waxwood.
As Vivian confronts the specter that holds the truth to secrets buried in the family consciousness, she examines her grandmother's life as a mid-19th century debutante and her own as a Gilded Age belle. Will she find her way out into the world as an autonomous being, or will she be haunted by the specter of her grandmother's unhappiness all her life?
About the Author
Tam May was born in Israel but grew up in the United States. She earned her English degree in Israel before returning to the States. She also has a Master's degree in English and worked as an English college instructor and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher before she became a full-time writer. She started writing when she was 14 and writing became her voice. She writes psychological fiction that explores emotional realities informed by past experiences, dreams, feelings, fantasies, nightmares, imagination, and self-analysis. She currently lives in Texas but calls San Francisco and the Bay Area home. When she’s not writing, she’s reading classic literature and watching classic films.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Absolutely fabulous writing. The characters are spectacularly developed: you either want to hug them, or smack them. The tension that runs between Vivian and her mother is just absolutely delightful. There is a conflict between what one feels and is, and what one should present to Society, and that’s absolutely a fight that most of us have fought at some time.
You'll be instantly transported back in time as you read this book. Even though Vivian is not the narrator, it's impossible not to step right into her shoes, living out her journey as your own. The pressures of society and family versus her own personal desires for her future war with each other as she explores her grandmother's hidden past. Scandalous secrets and turmoil await in this historical family life fiction.
The Specter is a deeply impressionable tale of a nearly lost Bohemian culture taking place across America in the 1850s. May focuses on one such community north of San Francisco, where artists and other odd ducks could live and create in a setting of like-mindedness and peace. May’s historical fiction picks apart the delicate façade of American gentility in upper class, well-heeled families on the wild West Coast at the end of the nineteenth century. The world is beginning to change yet again as society shifts with a burgeoning middle class. A matriarch of a shipping family passes away, and with her death come more secrets that granddaughter Vivian will do anything, even break strict mourning codes, to unravel. Bypassing her unemotional aristocratic mother, Vivian follows a mysterious old woman who insists she was Grandmother’s friend, to the summer getaway of Waxwood, where Grandmother spent an adventurous year as a Waxwood Belle. There, and in the artist’s colony of Brandywine, specters breathe. A large portion of the novel consists of letters home, which slowly reveal some of Grandmother’s secretive life, but only if one reads between the lines. I had fun thinking up numerous solutions to the riddles, some of which were cleverly revealed, and others left tantalizingly dangled. The research and era-specific codes, dress, and references were nearly faultless to Grandmother’s mid-1850s period, and the era of Vivian, the 1890s. Told mostly through Vivian’s perspective, and as she reads the letters, the grandmother’s, readers of American family drama who enjoy riddles will find much to appreciate about this first novel in a series. Although complete with a thoughtful conclusion, another mystery is dredged up at the very end which I assume will be the focus of another book in the series.