Cover image for Remembering Blue
Remembering Blue
Fowler, Connie May.
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Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 2000.
Physical Description:
290 pages ; 25 cm

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"This is how I came to be more than a flicker in the world's peripheral vision. How I came to respect and value family. How I moved to a deeper understanding of past wrongs. How I began to approach the future with both anticipation and forgiveness. A stranger walked into a store..."
From Connie May Fowler, author of the bestselling and award-winning Before Women Had Wings, comes a maritime saga and extraordinary love story between Mattie Blue and her husband, Nick, a fisherman on a small Florida island. Recently widowed and filled with grief, Mattie spins a tale of her beloved husband--his birth, his death, his love of the sea, his haunted fear of a family legend of drowning, and their romantic, unflagging devotion to each other.
Setting out to build a new life far removed from her lonely childhood, twenty-two-year-old Mattie expects another dull, efficient working day at the Suwannee Swifty convenience store when Proteus Nicholas Blue stops in and changes her life. Two days after leaving his large, nurturing Greek family on the small island of Lethe, Nick believes he has given up the sea, with its magic and its danger, for good, but their love transforms them both. As she struggles to build a new life--first with and later without Nick, surrounded by her new relatives--we discover along with her the infinite sources of strength to be found in familiar places, the comfort of family, and the healing power of memory.
Connie May Fowler is that rare author who is both elegant in her writing and passionate in her storytelling. Although her latest novel begins in the aftermath of a tragic event, her accomplished storytelling reveals how the life-affirming humor, joy, and incredible love between two people can make them so much more than they were alone. An exploration of grief and transcendence, Remembering Blue is as much about the allure and mysteries of the village as about the people who inhabit it. It is an unforgettable, beautifully told story that will affirm Connie May Fowler's place at the forefront of American writers.

Mattie Fiona Blue, recently widowed and filled with grief, spins a tale of her beloved husband, Nick--his birth, his death, his love of the sea, his haunted fear of a family legend of drowning, and their romantic, unflagging devotion to each other. In Mattie's courageous and stubborn telling of the story, we find REMEMBERING BLUE's true power: its quiet insistence that the living and the dead, the past and the present, the ancient and the yet-to-be, reside within us, coexisting, via memory, story, and myth.
While mourning Nick, Mattie tells us of her own life as she journeys from the loneliness of a broken home and disapproving mother to the chaotic, mythic, abundant sphere of Nick Blue and his sprawling Greek-American fishing family, whose ties to the sea extend across generations, continents, and time. On the bridgeless island of Lethe, Nick's family's home, in the midst of isolation and nature's bounty, Mattie comes into her own, navigating through the complex joys and demands of her new family even as she begins to see with wiser eyes the ocean's duality.
An exploration of grief and transcendence, REMEMBERING BLUE is as much about the allure and mysteries of the village as about the people who live there. It is an unforgettable, beautifully told story that will affirm Connie May Fowler's place at the forefront of American writers.

Author Notes

Connie May Fowler is an essayist and screenwriter, as well as the author of three previous novels, including Sugar Cage and River of Hidden Dreams . In 1996, she published Before Women Had Wings , later a successful "Oprah Winfrey Presents" TV movie, winner of the 1996 Southern Book Critics Circle Award, and paperback bestseller. She lives in Florida with her husband.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Fowler's previous novels, including Before Women Had Wings (1996), which was made into an Oprah Presents television movie, evoked the mystical powers of Florida's wilderness to profound effect, linking them to the sorrows endured by the daughters of abusive mothers and the blazing glory of doomed passion. All of these captivating elements are at work in her newest tale, an unabashedly magical love story. Mattie Fiona O'Rourke is only 25, but she is already marked for life by the death of her beloved husband, and this tale is her tribute to Nick Blue, a man who was born at sea during a storm and disappeared at sea in his prime. Loss is familiar territory for Mattie. Her father abandoned her when she was small, and her dissolute mother never so much as hugged her. Mattie meets Nick, a Greek American god from the little-known island of Lethe, at a convenience store, and it is love at first sight. Nick left the life he loved out of fear of following his deceased father to a watery death, but his premonition can't keep him away from the sea. So he brings his timid lover to Lethe, where she transforms herself into a resourceful fisherman's wife, holding her own within his large and ornery family. The tragic outcome of their love is preordained, yet there is true suspense in this seductively lyrical, mythlike drama. Fowler is too intent on creating a feel-good ambience and thus crosses the line from literature to entertainment, but her language is full of grace, and the beauty she conjures is a balm. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

When starry-eyed Matilda Fiona O'Roarke (Mattie) meets burly, romantic Proteus Nicholas Blue (Nick), she's a clerk at a Tallahassee convenience store and he's working for a logging firm. He tells her he comes from a long line of rugged Greek-American fishermen who believe they're descended from dolphins and, as such, are destined to die at sea. Nick hopes to thwart fate, but when a fellow logger is killed on the job, Nick realizes that land is just as dangerous as water and returns with Mattie to his home on Lethe, the Florida coastal island his forebears settled. Initially, Mattie finds the extroverted Blue clan overwhelming, but her shyness disappears when Nick's widowed mother takes her under her wing. Soon Mattie is a fishmonger like Nick, and she learns more about the Blue family's heritage and their belief in mythÄNick is named for Poseidon's son, and the island recalls the mythological river of forgetfulness. Domestic traumas unfold, with Nick's black-sheep brother, Zeke, abandoning his teenage son to Mattie's care, while another brother, Demetrius, struggles with his infant son after his wife's desertion. Nick is strong and sensitive, a loving husband to Mattie, a man who cries when she reads him Hemingway and who saves the lives of stranded baby turtles and butterflies. Mattie is haunted by her own sad history of paternal abandonment and maternal neglect. She tries hard to be perfect, tending house, earning an accounting degree, harvesting vegetables and culling shrimp. When the inevitable Blue curse claims Nick, newly pregnant Mattie remains with the family she has come to love. Though much of the narrative is awash in nostalgia, and the allusions to Greek mythology are forced, Fowler writes lyrically of the Florida coast. The love story carries strong appeal, and Fowler's tender portrayal of Nick and Mattie's idyllic relationship will please romantics everywhere. BOMC selection; national author tour. (Feb.) FYI: Fowler's previous novel, Before Women Had Wings, was made into an Oprah Winfrey Presents TV movie and won the 1996 Southern Book Critics Circle Award. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Here, 25-year-old widow Mattie O'Rourke narrates how she finds and loses the love of her life. The daughter of an abusive, alcoholic mother and a father who abandons them, she meets Nick Blue, a handsome shrimper of Greek descent, when she's working as a convenience store clerk. His family, who owns most of Lethe, an island three miles off Florida's gulf coast, carries a legend that haunts Nick: they once were dolphins, and someday he will return to the sea. After coming to the mainland to figure out what to do with his life, he takes his friend's death as a sign to return home. Mattie goes with him, and, suddenly, after three years of blissful marriage, Nick's empty boat is found drifting (his body is never recovered). A Florida-based essayist and award-winning screenwriter, Fowler endows her characters with a sense of humor and the ability to express joy. Full of interesting allusions to mythology and animal folklore, this is a pleasure to read even though the reader knows that a tragedy is lurking. Recommended for all public libraries.--Penny Stevens, Centreville Regional Lib., Fairfax Cty P.L, Annandale, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Mattie, Mattie, sweetheart, I love you. It's all so surprising. Here we are, staring into the jaws of a new century and I at twenty-five years of age am left to ponder the world as if I were a woman of eighty. My remembrance, my meditation on Nick Blue--who he was and why his life was important--is a simple act by a grieving wife, yet his story cannot be told to the exclusion of mine. For twenty-two years, I existed as that murky shadow at the far edge of your peripheral vision, a faint reminder that there are those among the living who are exceptional at no level. My head down, my shoulders slumped, my manner of dress benign and colorless, I drifted through life with singular purpose: never to draw attention to myself. Fearing both judgment and recognition, I scuttled along the fringes, noiselessly. Today, if you pressed me to come up with something nice to say about the old Mattie I suppose it would be this: I was dully efficient. Bookish without being brilliant. Quiet without an ounce of presence. Unflagging in my devotion to sensible shoes. Enter Nick Blue, a man who didn't have a dull bone in his body. Nick was a dreamer, a pure-hearted shrimper who could hear the wind creak through the bent wing of a roosting heron and who would whisper into that same wind, "Bring me a good haul, tonight, sweet bird." Despite my reticent nature, Nick's charms were not wasted. The very moment he held me in his gaze, my denial of myself as a sexual being began to crumble. This isn't to say that before meeting Nick passion escaped me. I had desires, dreams, carnal fantasies. But there were problems. One, the episodes occurred at embarrassingly infrequent intervals. And two, they invariably involved extreme flights of fancy during which for a few minutes, an hour, perhaps several weeks, I stoked the flames of a private crush on someone with whom I could never, never, never really have an affair. I was mad for old movies, you see. And I spent a rather unhealthy amount of time daydreaming about the likes of Cary Grant, Sir Laurence Olivier, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, and Paul Newman. The pitfalls, I believe, are obvious. Nevertheless, these secret one-sided romances got me through some rough spots, perhaps even saved my life, at least kept my libido in some semblance of working order because when it came to real flesh and blood passion, I'm afraid that more often than not I possessed an extreme case of cold feet. In fact, mine were frozen to the bone. I blame my sexual stage fright on my mother. She was a withholding woman when it came to loving me. But she had other priorities. Such as the fact that Daddy was a booze hound who wandered out of our lives when I was seven. Minutes before he disappeared into the mosquito- and gnat-infested Jacksonville Beach night, he staggered into my purple bedroom with its white eyelet curtains that smelled of bleach and dust, shook me awake, and mumbled in a Jim Beam haze, "Matilda Fiona O'Rourke, sweetheart, I'm leaving. I'm joining the circus. Make sure your mama brings you to see me next time we roll into town." He kissed my cheek. His day-old beard scratched my face. I looked up at him, blankly, intrigued that my daddy had aspirations beyond his job as a shipyard welder yet also confused at his intentions. I'm leaving. Two spare words tossed into the close air of my bedroom as if they held no weight. As if they wouldn't claw at my heart for the rest of my days. As if his presence in our lives didn't matter, had never mattered. I stared into his bloodshot pale eyes. They shone with tears. Or was it excitement? I reached up and touched his stubbled beard. I was Daddy's girl. His little angel. Cupcake. "Don't go." "Got to, Cupcake. Time to see the world." He tipped his finger at me in a drunken salute. Signaling his resolve, he folded in his dry, full lips and squeezed shut his eyes. "You close your eyes, too, sweetheart," he said in a slow singsong voice. "That's it. Keep 'em closed." I heard him pick up the jewelry box he'd given me just that Christmas. When you opened the lid a ballerina popped up and spun in a perpetual pirouette to the tinny strains of Swan Lake. I loved that shiny black lacquer box and its pretty music. But on that night the song sounded warped, too slow. The little gear needed to be rewound. Daddy said, "Gooood girl. Doooon't peeeek." His heavy footsteps glommed across the pine floor. "Just listen to the music, baby. That's right. Sweet dreeeams." The door creaked open and he was gone. The music stopped in mid-note and I knew the ballerina was no longer dancing. I kept my eyes closed but hung on to the only thing I had left of my daddy: a sour, thin gust of Jim Beam. I do not know if he said goodbye to my mother or not. She didn't volunteer the information. And I did not ask. In fact, she behaved as if he had never happened. After that night, the words your father, your daddy, my husband never crossed her lips. One afternoon I came home from school and found that all physical traces of him were gone, as well. His clothes. His greasy tools. His ashtray shaped like a bass. Even his collection of sweat-rancid baseball caps. All evidence of him kaput, except for me--that part of him she couldn't erase. My presence was a constant, painful annoyance, the rock in the shoe that wouldn't let her forget. But she tried. By God, did she ever. Other than to criticize or browbeat, she rarely spoke to me. I suppose that could be chalked up to her hysteria over being a single mother. But being a single parent doesn't explain her refusal to look me in the eyes or hug me or attempt a normal conversation. Maybe that's what I regret most about my unconventional upbringing. My mother and I never simply chatted. Not once. Maybe she kissed me when I was a baby. But I have searched my memory backward and forward, and for the life of me, I cannot recall one single instance of even the most summary peck on the cheek. Her relations with men stood in night-and-day contrast to her at-arm's-length handling of me. After Daddy left, Mother spent the rest of her days becoming her own three-ring circus as she chased, entertained, and made a fool of herself over an uninterrupted series of no-good prospects who kept her ceaselessly brokenhearted. She danced for them. She cooked for them. She even shined their shoes. But none of them stuck. It was as though her vulnerability awakened their basest instincts. She was a woman cut from the same gossamer cloth as Blanche DuBois--her desperate need for a man led even the kind ones to use her. I once saw her shimmy for a man. Through my cracked-open bedroom door, I watched--a mixture of shame, revulsion, and fascination keeping me pegged. He sat on our natty brown couch, his legs spread wide, stroking himself as my mother--with an ear-to-ear cheerleader's grin plastered on and panic filming her eyes--shook for all she was worth. He laughed and said, "God, you're stupid." Then he grabbed her arm, tore off her panties, and shoved her down on him. She grunted and her eyes winced with pain but she kept that smile intact, even when he smashed his lips into hers. The more judgmental among you might say that she suffered from some sort of sexual pathology. Being her daughter, I can't accept that Pearl Monita O'Rourke's problems boiled down to loose morals, physiologically driven or otherwise. I prefer to think that her aberrant behavior was spurred by a relentless, profound, and yet rather boring bent toward self-destruction. Though Mother tended to ignore me in favor of her beau of the week, she occasionally tossed me blemished pearls of queenly wisdom which she fitfully conjured during the many hours she spent on that love-stained couch smoking cigarettes and staring into space. Sometimes her advice ran contrary to her own actions: "Don't ever believe anything a man tells you. They just want their pants washed." I was never sure whether this was a sexual euphemism or a laundry tip. On other occasions her words ran true to form: "Don't set your sights too high, Matilda. Don't try to be a doctor when you can marry one. And whatever you do, don't major in English." Mother viewed anything remotely associated with the English language as a mortal sin--grammar, spelling, literature, punctuation. That's because in the arms of a good book, I could be lost to the world for days. And while Mother didn't want to be involved in my moment-to-moment existence, she believed anything that could keep a child occupied from dawn to dusk and beyond was cause for alarm. "Books!" she'd say. "They're rotting your brain! Why can't you just go outside and play like other children?" When I was old enough to know about both bras and sanitary napkins, she decided it was high time for me to leave the nest. "Don't you have any prospects?" she would nag. "When I was your age I was hanging out with my friends, flirting with the boys. You're never going to get married at this rate!" I would pause from my reading and say, "Mother, I'm only fourteen. This isn't Kuwait." She'd look over her shoulder, her cigarette poised in the air and her eyebrow angled haughtily--an homage to Dietrich, I suppose--and she'd snap, "Don't you use those big words with me, young lady. You think you're so high and mighty. Well, you're not. You're nothing. You're no better than I am." Excerpted from Remembering Blue: A Novel by Connie May Fowler All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.