Murmur Lee Harp is a bit of a legend in her part of the world, residing in the home her family has built near a river her grandfather named. This part of the Florida coast is decidedly a bit of heaven, and Murmur Lee has no intention of ever living anywhere else. Despite a failed marriage and the death of her small daughter from cancer, this woman is an irrepressible survivor, currently embarking on a new romance.
When Murmur's body washes ashore, her friends are stunned that this vital, courageous friend has met her end when only in her thirties. Her friends and current lover are shocked and confused, especially since Murmur Lee was as comfortable in the water as on the land. This was an extraordinary woman who has suffered her share of tragedy but lived each day to the fullest.
Murmur's connections are examined in first-person chapters from the point of view of the dead Murmur herself, her close friends, Charleston Rowena Mudd, neighbor Lucinda, Dr. Z., Billy Speare (the last boyfriend) and Edith Piaf, an ex-Marine and transsexual at the age of 62. Each chapter adds a new perspective to Murmur's demise, the private moments of friendship that evolved over time and some of the childhood memories that helped define her character.
The chapters when Murmur speaks are confessional, brief glimpses into the events that shaped her rebellious personality, including a large dose of religion. Motherhood looms large, the culmination of higher purpose in a once-unfocused Murmur's spirit is trapped in the here and now, not yet released to the next world, drifting, a state where she continues to examine her temporary condition.
Murmur Lee's friends question the inexplicable drowning, whether the death was accidental or the result of more sinister motives. The ferociously loyal best friend, Charlee Mudd, has the daunting task of closing up the beach house and she reminisces over the emotional extremes of her own impulsive decisions, feeling the pain of the loss of a best friend. Dr. Z. is utterly bereft, having lost his wife scant months earlier; so Edith Piaf, in an effort to comfort the eclectic mix of friends, gathers everyone for an evening of celebration, the resulting brouhaha worthy of Murmur's wildest adventures.
This novel is vintage Connie May Fowler, a writer with an eye for the small details that often pass unnoticed yet define so much of each day. The Problem with Murmur Lee is light-hearted, humorous and poignant. Murmur's death plays out against a fertile canvas of nature's bounty, its rich excess contrasted against the complexities of human nature. Murmur Lee Harp's natural exuberance leads her to some volatile, even dangerous situations, but this woman joyfully embraces her home, her friends and her life with an endless capacity for love. It is those left behind who must make peace with this loss.