♫CURSE OF THE NINTH♫
“Where do I even begin? The Curse of the Ninth was an enrapturing tale from start to finish. I was amazed at the author’s ability to switch seamlessly from the perspectives of a adult men, women, then show the world through the eyes of a child from birth to adulthood. Each character’s view added to the richness of the story.
The details of American history in the 1920s, 30s, and beyond captured the day to day struggles of ordinary families, and it only added to the drama of Charley’s twisted upbringing.
I must say I absolutely loved the tiny details Marlenee added like the behavior of beloved pets and how they shape a child.
The book was a bit slow as far as pacing, but the story was so rich and complex I am not sure how the author could’ve done it any other way. I found myself thinking about it continuously after it ended. Can you say book hangover?
It was a very well done piece and I already want to read through it again.” – A.D. Faylin – Author, The Dark Pilgrim
“This is a period piece set mostly in the Great Depression. (For younger readers, that’s the 1930s). A moody and dark mystery drama about the turmoils of Dr. Wesley Marnier, an optometrist, and his youngest son, Charlie. At the opening, the death of Wesley (whom we get to know as Doc) gives rise to the strange passing over of his spirit into his son. A schizophrenic menage-a-trois. If you don’t like hints of reincarnation, this is not for you. Yet it is a compelling read.
An impulse from somewhere out of the fringes of the occult (Phowa, an ancient Chinese language, is mentioned) allows Wesley to transfer his consciousness into Charlie at birth. Very improbable, you might ask, but this makes for some interesting back-and-forth between living infant and departed father, not to mention the mother, Phoebe, a concert pianist and the main anchor character. Wesley had lived an anguished life with his drug and alcohol addict first wife, Stella. Phoebe was his last hope, via Charlie, who finally admits to himself that “she never knew a stranger.” Scattered all over the human landscape are interesting figures to flesh out the drama: Stella, Wesley’s partner Jack Warrington, stepfather George Gimble, Charlie’s older stepbrother Leland, and Charlie’s future naval psychologist Dr. Savage. Setting aside the odd cultist possession of little Charlie by his father as a gimmick, the tale is narrated predominantly from Charlie’s POV.
It is a compelling and tantalizing landscape. Charlie is mentally tortured, even from infant-hood. He remembers his birth, his first earliest experiences, his proxy view of his father, as if he was an adult. That is the affect of the father-and-son duality. Watching Charlie grow up is both painful and otherworldly. Not to mention the afterlife control, out of love, of Wesley, who’s always in Charlie’s head. Side by side with him is the equal pain of his mother, Phoebe. A lot of this is beautifully presented through musical interludes, with prodigies Leland, Phoebe and (partially) Charlie at their sounding-board of the piano.
Is Charlie really possessed by his father? How could it happen? The 1930s were full of seances with the dead – one such scene is used here. Perhaps Marlenee likes that ambiance. At one point, I found what I think of as my idea of what was really happening, as Savage tells Charlie: “…you’ve created this alternative personality you call Doc… it’s not a classic case, but I’ve diagnosed you as a schizophrenic.” If it’s a gimmick by Marlenee, it’s a good one and it works for me.
Love stories often take on these multiple dimensions, and Marlenee has the expressive power of prose to make this a tour de force. We constantly come across marvelously descriptive passages. For example, near the end, Charlie observes that “blackbirds are perched on the barbed wiring between wooden fences. They remind me of music notes on staves between brackets…” Later, Charlie’s father shouts inside his head, “Listen to the orchestra of the ocean…” to which Charlie hears “the crash of waves, like kettledrums smashing over my head.” Music is a high motif here, and it finally releases Charlie, even if it is in the oceanic symphony. There are many of these wonderful sentences, like emotional melodies scattered throughout the grand opera of Charlie’s life.
For me, a weak part of the novel’s structure is its chronology. I admit, it’s not a glaring one, but the story is told with a lot of jumps back and forth in time, from the 1910s to 1949 and beyond, etc. As a reader, I like things arranged on a linear timeline, to maintain all the developments in order, in a less confusing fashion. The main surrender to that by the author is having the very brief episodes with Charlie and Dr. Savage told in the present tense.
Celebrity seems to bring more pain than the ordinary life. The author gives us the hint that after the ninth major work (in this case, Beethoven’s), the tenth is likely to be a curse. While Mozart and Handel dispel that myth, the idea is a good meme here. The ‘music’ of a person’s life may fail miserably when the home environment becomes warped. Yet the ending, with a small dollop of syrupy sweetness, also comes like a cleansing of the readers mind, the lifting of the burden that reconciliation brings. Bravo, Ruthie Marlenee.” – Joe Boudreault, Author The Dolphin Code
“Ruthie Marlenée’s Curse of the Ninth introduces its readers to a cast of alluringly imperfect characters facing issues of grief, greed, betrayal, and vengeance in the first half of the twentieth century. An embittered, alcoholic ex-wife, a pregnant, career-focused widow, a grifting business partner with ties to the mob and eyes on his partner’s wife—their complexities all pale in comparison to the young man who’s stuck in the middle of it all and haunted by the spirit of his murdered father.
This book will speak to anyone who’s ever suffered a loss, been wronged by someone they trusted, been left by someone they loved, struggled to create their own identity, separate from that of their family’s, or had trouble letting go of the past.
Personally, I had trouble letting go once I reached the last page of the book. What a great read!” – Katherine Itacy, author Relentless: From National Champion to Physically Disabled Activist.
“I love this novel. CURSE OF THE NINTH is fresh, intriguing and poignant and will sweep you into a story that you will remember long after you finish the last page. ” — Lynn Hightower, author of THE PIPER.
“A gripping read with unexpected twists and turns. Marlenée weaves a rich, multi-generational tale with sweeping suspense that captivates the reader throughout. ‘Curse of the Ninth’ will leave you haunted and wanting more from the talented writer.”– Lori Rosene-Gambino, Award Winning Screenwriter
“‘Curse of the Ninth’ is a fascinating story. Full of suspense, I was glued to the pages until the very last word. Marlenée knows how to bring her characters to life.” –Daniela Piazzi, U.N. World Peace Recipient