Friday, March 25, 2011

Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum (review #116)

Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum
Gallery Books (Simon and Schuster)- Fiction
978-1-4391-5689-6 - $15.00

A unique title for a unique book. Top it off with a beautiful cover and you got a winner to recommend. Though compared to The Poisonwood Bible, Amaryllis in Blueberry has its own very strong voice.

From the publisher's website:

Meet the Slepys: Dick, the stern doctor, the naÏve husband, a man devoted to both facts and faith; Seena, the storyteller, the restless wife, a mother of four, a lover of myth. And their children, the Marys: Mary Grace, the devastating beauty; Mary Tessa, the insistent inquisitor; Mary Catherine, the saintly, lost soul; and finally, Amaryllis, Seena's unspoken favorite, born with the mystifying ability to sense the future, touch the past, and distinguish the truth tellers from the most convincing liar of all. When Dick insists his family move from Michigan to the unfamiliar world of Africa for missionary work, he can't possibly foresee how this new land and its people will entrance and change his daughters—and himself—forever. Nor can he predict how Africa will spur his wife Seena toward an old but unforgotten obsession. In fact, Seena may be falling into a trance of her own. . . .

There are a lot of books out there that write about families and I have indeed read a fair amount of them. I can say that the Slepy family was certainly one of the more upsetting bunch of individuals to read about. The father, Dick, right out of the gate was not a likable character to me. It is explained early on how he became obsessed with Seena and insisted on calling her by her birth name, Christina. Their courting was quick and soon their family had started. He had ambition but it masked with his need for perfection and control. His faith seemed strong though to me it felt like a sham. Not my cup of tea, this man.

Seena, I went back and forth on. At times I could feel how trapped she was and I felt for her. But then there are other times when she was so absent and in her own head, that I wanted to shake her and remind her that she had children to raise. She was obviously an educated woman, and throughout the book, she speaks of Greek mythology and history and how it pertains to her life. She was a mixed bag and overall, intriguing to read about.

The four girls were all so brilliantly different and could each have their own book written about them. It wasn't a long novel, 360 some pages. Their characters were explored though bits at a time. Once they get to Africa, Grace and Catherine take a bit more a center stage. Catherine begins to fast and almost dies. Grace, being the wild one of the bunch, discovers she is with child from her tryst with a local boy back home (a tiny spoiler) and is offered marriage by an African man. The same African man that Catherine has fallen for and so begins their battle.

Tessa explores Africa with a young African boy and Amaryllis follows behind, much like their routine back home in Michigan. Tessa is curious but watchful and at times begrudgingly watches over her younger sister.

I liked Amaryllis. I wanted to care for her. She got a lot attention but it never seemed to be the right kind. I felt she was searching and I wanted her to be cared for.
That's just the mother in me, I guess.

The reader finds out in the beginning that Dick is murdered and Seena is on trial. Throughout the book you get a bit more of Amaryllis' story, when she tells of the "after", after her father was killed. Her and Seena both have their own parts told like that. The rest of the book is five parts going back and forth in time from Michigan to life in Africa.

Rating: 5/6 stars
It was heavy book but I could not let it go. It pushed me along to the end. It was written beautifully and the characters, though at times I wish had more time to develop, were written carefully enough that I felt invested in them. I recommend this novel for fans of serious fiction, especially lovers of Barbara Kingsolver.
Along with the well written characters, you also get a richly described Africa. I felt the fear they all had in the amount of diseases you could get there; the care in boiling the water, surviving the heat and the bugs, and the claustrophobic attention they received from the locals. I was tense reading some of those parts and certainly felt their discomfort.

Book Club Pick?
Yes, without a doubt. This novel explores so many topics; marriage, faith, infidelity, American culture vs. African culture, obligation, desire and survival.
Book clubs will be buzzing.

Author Info:

Places to Purchase:

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Tales of Whimsy said...

O sounds gooood. I love families in books too :) Happy weekend dear!

Mystica said...

I like the American culture vs African culture bit. Should make the book very interesting.

Jenny said...

I hadn't paid much attention to what this book was about and assumed it was sort of a light, frilly read. Glad to hear it's a heavier book than that... it sounds really intense and good. Great review!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

This sounds great. I loved The Poisonwood Bible but this does sound a bit too similar to it?

Marce said...

The cover is gorgeous, a favourite of mine for the year for sure.

I have been intrigued by this story unsure if really for me.

Your review makes me want to definitely consider.

Marie Cloutier said...

This really sounds like a book I'd love. :-) And the cover is really, really pretty.
To answer your question, no BEA for me this year. :-( I'm very disappointed and will miss everyone very much. Are you going? I hope you have a great time if you do!

Ryan said...

This isn't my normal cup of tea but you have convinced me I should at least take a look at it. Thanks for the review.

Misha said...

The cover is stunning! It was the comparison to The Poisonwood Bible that interested me in this book. I need to get this book soon. Thanks for the review!
Have a great weekend!

Jo-Jo said...

I've had my eye on this book, but your review makes me want it in my hands NOW! Hmmm...I do have my Kindle so that is possible...
Thanks for the review!

Audra said...

Great review -- the cover had me thinking it was a little more gentle -- but the themes sound crazy intense in the best way. I suspect I'm going to feel the same way you did and dislike Dick -- he sounds awful.

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

this book sounds so good!!! now i want to know which one did it...who murdered him - do tell!!!

as an aside question, have you noticed the increase of books being written based in Africa? I have two waiting for me to read and review that are based in Africa...just a neat curious thing i've noticed

thanks for turning me on to the book!

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

There is an chance to have the author phone in on your bookclub if you read this book.

Go to this link at the publisher's site and check it out!

Lisa said...

So the question is: my book club read The Poisonwood Bible last year. Is this one too similar to read that close to "Poisonwood?" Whether I read it with them or not, I'm definitely reading this one!

Gina said...

Okay, first...simply love the cover. That blue is gorgeous! Second, the characters....boy the father does sound like a bad apple and the mother has a few issues, but the girls are a fun mix. I can see the attention issues happening with Amaryllis especially with her abilities. Often times special skills set them apart, but they forget they are still only children. Great review....thanks for sharing! ^_^