The child Frederick and his mother both have secrets. She sings alone in their desultory kitchen; he sneaks out of the house to sing for spare change in front of city bars and nightclubs, his vast repertoire learned from his mother’s lyrical midnight music. His six older brothers run wild, and the sensitive and musically gifted Frederick and his struggling mother are very sure he is not like them at all.
In mid-life, Frederick is deliverer of Canada Post mail; teacher of Voice; keeper of even bigger secrets; caretaker of his demented mother; lousy with dates. Still, it appears that everything is more or less satisfactory and under control…until it becomes obvious that he can’t get away from his past after all.
The Madrigal explores the experience of solitude, the deep longing for elusive connection, the meaning of extraordinary talent, and the role of memories—either involuntarily forgotten or intentionally suppressed—throughout our lives. As each week Frederick steadfastly visits his mother in her nursing home, he brings a unique twist to a timeless journey of self-forgiveness.
“This is a highly refreshing exploration of the twists and turns that life throws at us, whether we’re ordinary mortals or, like Frederick Madrigal, Day’s unforgettable central character, gifted yet cursed. Dian Day weaves great tales and The Madrigal is quite possibly her best.”
—Maura Hanrahan, author of Unchained Man: The Arctic Life and Times of Captain Robert Abram Bartlett
“The Madrigal is a novel of impeccable structure presented in many voices arranged in counterpoint. Dian Day fascinates the reader as she weaves time past and present, voices lyrical and prosaic, characters brutal and sympathetic, story heart-rending and comic, in short, the tapestry of Frederick’s life, always informed by the music he carries inside him, a legacy from his doomed mother. Carried along on the wave of events, he is forced to face his past. In so doing, he comes to terms with his life. He learns to forgive himself and embrace the future.”
—Cecelia Frey, author of Moments of Joy and Lovers Fall Back to Earth
A Madrigal is a musical setting of secular text for four or six voices, unaccompanied by instruments. Secular, not religious. Four or six, not seven. With a last name like Madrigal, you have to be precise about music.
When people I don’t know very well learn about my involvement in music, they always ask, jokingly, about my instrument. It still makes me blush, though luckily the Madrigals are all dark-complexioned. Women, in particular, ask this question with a hint of sexual energy that suggests they have no idea this joke was overplayed by the time I was fifteen, let alone now, twenty-one years later. I blush for their sakes rather than my own, and I try to answer seriously, as if they were genuinely interested: I play piano, lute, harp, harpsichord, recorder, flute, and the viola d’amore—which, interestingly, has seven strings above the fingerboard and seven below.
I rarely mention that voice is my instrument of choice.
Of course, my family drew a lot of attention. Three sets of identical twins out of the same mother is a very rare thing. It’s fraternal twins, apparently, that tend to run in families. After the SS was born, it was bad enough. People stopped my mother in the street and in the grocery store, some of them to coo and others in simple shock at the reckless multiplying of the lower classes. But after AA came along, there was almost constant attention from the university. Nearly every week, graduate students would call my mother asking if the twins could participate in some research study or other. She always said yes—for a fee. Until they themselves were old enough to say no, my six brothers advanced the causes of biology and psychology considerably.…
When my mother was pregnant with me, the Ns told me that a reporter from the National Enquirer camped out in the empty lot across the street for pretty much the whole duration of her third trimester. When my parents came home from the hospital with one meager child tucked under one of my father’s arms, the reporter packed up and went home to Boca Raton, Florida. Since I was born in late November, he was probably doubly unimpressed.