Mourning Dove

Fiction - Southern
234 Pages
Reviewed on 08/31/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Claire Fullerton grew up in Memphis, TN and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of contemporary fiction, "Dancing to an Irish Reel," set in Connemara, Ireland, where she once lived. Dancing to an Irish Reel is a finalist in the 2016 Kindle Book Review Awards, and a 2016 Readers' Favorite. Claire is the author of "A Portal in Time," a paranormal mystery that unfolds in two time periods, set on California's hauntingly beautiful Monterey Peninsula, in a village called Carmel-by-the-Sea. Both of Claire's novels are published by Vinspire Publishing. Her third novel, Mourning Dove, is a Southern family saga, published in June, 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. She is one of four contributors to the book, Southern Seasons, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, to be published in November 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. Claire is represented by Julie Gwinn, of The Seymour Literary Agency

    Book Review

Reviewed by Amanda Rofe for Readers' Favorite

Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton is historical fiction at its best. The novel begins in America during the 1960s and charts the lives of Posey and her two offspring, Millie and Finley. Originally from Minnesota, the two youngsters are shunted to their mother's childhood home in Memphis. Here, they become immersed in tradition and a set of bewildering societal rules. Posey, who has been trained in the nuances and manners required to survive in such an environment, is in her element. She is like a musician playing expertly to a tune she knows off by heart. The children watch and learn, but never fully become a part of the Memphis experience. This book weaves a story of wealth and privilege which buffered families against tragedy but did not fully protect them from it.

Claire Fullerton creates a wonderfully atmospheric coming of age drama. The lives of wealthy families in the deep South is depicted with a gracefulness and eloquence that characterized society at that time. Manners and duty were maxims of the day. However, beneath the rather thick veneer of propriety lurked a raft of issues, including racial tension and the seemingly desperate need to conform to a rather absurd strict code of conduct. The writing is often haunting. It depicts lives where families were inextricably interconnected and good lineage paramount. I enjoyed this book tremendously. I was drawn in and mesmerized by the narrative. Mourning Dove was thoughtful, wonderfully descriptive and incredibly insightful. I did not want it to end.

Claire Fullerton

Thank you to Readers' Favorite for awarding Mourning Dove with the Bronze Medal!

Charles Hardin Holly

Style and substance are the two necessary ingredients any book must have. This book exemplifies both. I was charmed and delighted by the author’s descriptive abilities. Her use of language, metaphors, turns of phrase kept me turning each page. She can make a table sound interesting.
I now know what it was like to be a Southern Belle. There’s a lot going on more than meets the eye, which is why this is so engrossing. The reader is dropped into the life of the upper crust, replete with a big back story and complicated family life. What characters they are. Posey, the mother, is all about refinement and a survivor. Finley, the bother of narrator and protagonist Millie, is a compelling, complicated, charismatic, enigma, bearing a resemblance to Holden Caufield. Then there is the Colonel; let’s just say he doesn’t come across as a nice guy. There are other supporting characters and they all move the story along.
I enjoyed reading every sentence, and some of them are downright extraordinary and wise.
Claire Fullerton is a bright new star. I’ve read her last two books, and they are great, but this one is a masterpiece.

Patty Phillips

I loved Mourning Dove from the minute I started reading it! Claire has a wonderful way with words and her description of each character leaves you rooting for them throughout the book. I couldn't put it down!

Louis Spirito

In her moving novel Mourning Dove, Claire Fullerton borrows a page from Southern Gothic writers like Flanner O’Connor and Carson McCullers, giving us an insider’s look at a family’s bumpy return to their Southern roots. For Millie, the teen protagonist and narrator, compared to unrestrained Minnesota, 1970s Memphis is a minefield of genteel manners and unwritten protocol, where even minor missteps carry damning social consequences and the likelihood of a scolding or worse. Navigating these constricting waters would be tough sledding for even a perfect family, which hers isn’t. Rocked by addiction, divorce, and her mother’s hasty second marriage of convenience, Millie’s world revolves around her supremely talented and equally fragile older brother, Finley. Cultures clash as the siblings struggle to forge their unique identities at a time and place where conformity to outdated values matters more than personal freedom and happiness.

While she does a first-rate job delineating the troubled siblings, their coquettish mother, dour step-dad, and stoic household staff, the author’s real triumph lies in her ability to make us see, hear and breathe the atmosphere of upper crust Memphis, where appearances are paramount even when they mask a sense of family and society in decay. If you’re a fan of southern sagas or just a reader looking to experience some place new, Mourning Dove won’t disappoint.

Suzie Waltner

You guys, book FOMO (fear of missing out) is a thing! And books like Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton only feeds that FOMO. Fullerton is a new-to-me authors, but boy, oh boy, did she make a big and lasting impression!
Readers are taken through a tumultuous childhood through Millie Crossan. While things started out almost idyllic for this young lady in Minnesota, times changed. Situations and poor choices from others around her upend young Millie’s sense of security. And when the family trades Minnesota for Memphis, appearances become even more important than nurturing.
Fullerton delves into some of the dangers of burying and hiding emotions, dysfunctional family life, and what happens when the person held as a hero falls from their pedestal. Millie’s unique voice, influenced by southern gentility, often . reads like poetry. It’s her inner struggles and questions that drew me to her and her story.
A simple sentence within the first pages of Mourning Dove invested me in the lives of Millie and her family. And it happened more than once—one sentence that kept me from setting down the book until the very end.
This is not an easy read. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s life. But the emotional journey is well worth the ride.

Suzanne S Henley

I found myself staying up til almost 2:00 a.m., unaware of the time because I was so swept away with Millie and Finley and family. It's been a long time since I've had that special teenage-summer-night-lost-in-a-book experience. The cicadas and tree frogs outside my bedroom window only heightened my appreciation.

C. Jackson

I love books that take place in the south and exemplify southern living. Mourning Dove didn't disappoint me. Claire Fullerton descriptive ability in writing makes her distinctive and masterful. Along with her proficiency in descriptions is her character development. The brother-sister relationship between Finley and Millie was the foundation of her story. The mother Posey was the typical aristocrat of southern society. The story is gripping as your ride the highs, lows, and even the humor. Definitely, a page-turner.

Michael Clarke

A very well-written, achingly beautiful novel. Ms. Fullerton has a way with the written word. Life as Millie knows it continues to collide with life as she hoped it would be. I could not put it down.

Katherine H. Griffin

This is a must read for anyone growing up in the magical south or ever having been captivated by its generational traditions. I lived in Memphis during the 70's and 80's and recognize many of the fabulous landmarks that make The Bluff City who it is. The author tells a raw , yet tender, saga of one family's journey through the eyes of a vulnerable young girl evolving in to a strong and still vulnerable young woman. I became several of the characters,as each was introduced and captured my heart. Claire Fullerton combines the art of story telling with the likes of Pat Conroy, and the true southern ranks of society as Kathryn Stockett. Thank you for a perfect summer read that will take a front row in my library to be reread again.

Michelle Waterhouse

I encourage anyone who has not yet read Claire Fullerton's novel Mourning Dove to get a copy today!! This book had me spellbound from start to finish. Claire's writing prowess quickly captivated me and I too became part of her novel. I was immediately transformed back in time to the 1970's in Memphis, Tennessee. I felt a kindred spirit with all the characters in this novel, especially the main characters Millie and Finley. Each character plays a pivotal role in Claire's story to beautifully articulate and exemplify love, loss, heartache, survival and redemption. Bravo Claire! Well done!!

Kathy Ramsperger

Some books simply leave you breathless because they conjure up your own memories. Mourning Dove did that for me. The author had me from page 14:

"The Memphis Finley and I landed in was my mother's Memphis. It was magnolia-lined and manicured, black-tailed and bow-tied. It glittered in illusory gold and tinkled in sing-song voices. It was cloistered, segregated, and well appointed, the kind of place where everyone monogrammed their initials on everything...."

I could also speak of the novel's gorgeous, sensory prose, unforgettably detailed secondary characters, and the subtle yet sure way the author leads you to the novel's climax and conclusion. Yet the reason this novel will remain with me forever is that it echoed my own Southern experience.

Millie and brother Finley (who's her ally and superhero) come to Memphis from Minnesota by way of divorce. I came to the South (and Memphis was my first stop) from Chicago. I was accepted, because my mother and father were South Carolinian with the signature of the Swamp Fox stamped on their yellowing parchment land documents--but I was not necessarily approved of. I very soon learned to be seen and not heard.

I identified with Millie in a way I haven't any other character. Being the youthful outsider, Millie sees a lot about the Seventies-era South that most, having lived there for generations, choose to overlook. Her insights struck at my own heart like a bell, calling me home...home to myself. The South was a lot of things, but it was never as it appeared, and it left some people resilient and brave and others, it crushed. This is the story of both kinds of people. This is a novel of how grief unexpressed and words unspoken can tear you apart, no matter where you're from.

If you want to learn more about the South and its culture, about a South in an agonizing transition that no one spoke of, and perhaps has now forgotten, if you want to understand what makes Southerners unique, about how the South follows you around the globe once it's touched you, read Mourning Dove. If you want to experience the loving ally you had in your male sibling, pick it up also. And, especially, if you want to read a novel about a female character that stays with you, read Mourning Dove.


As a Memphian now New Yorker, a voracious reader, a librarian, I looked forward to reading Claire Fullerton’s Morning Dove. I had planned to read a bit of it every day, but could not help but read it very quickly. Even if I hadn’t so closely identified with the landscape of Claire’s characters, I would have loved this book because it’s gorgeously crafted and written. Claire has drawn a vivid description of coming of age in Memphis in the 1970s within the framework of privilege and dysfunction as her narrator navigates the heartbreak of a tragically flawed father, the complexities of a beautiful, social mother and her great love for her talented, bigger than life brother. She paints pictures of beautiful parties, good friends, great music with an under layer of sadness and grief that left me in tears. It’s a big, beautifully intense book with many layers. I look forward to picking up Mourning Dove again in the future to read it more slowly and deliberately. It’s that good.

RS Fourmy

Read this book in one long flight because I couldn’t put it down. The author’s main character, Millie, bravely reveals the strengths, secrets, idiosyncrasies, and rigid patterns of a southern family trying to keep a happy face on a painful past and present. Her description of the psychological response to traumatic news is vivid and evocative. It’s a funny, thought-provoking and ultimately heartbreaking story as Millie tries to figure out her new southern culture, her talented yet enigmatic brother, and her relationship to God set amongst bookends of tragic loss. Her quest is to “master the ambiguities of life”, which just may be the goal for most of us.