(A little more love to Galleysmith for the inspiration of how to set up the title, author, genre, etc.)
In the stirring tradition of The Secret Life of Bees and The Poisonwood Bible, Amaryllis in Blueberry explores the complexity of human relationships set against an unforgettable backdrop. Told through the haunting voices of Dick and Seena Slepy and their four daughters, Christina Meldrum’s soulful novel weaves together the past and the present of a family harmed—and healed—by buried secrets.
“Maybe, unlike hope, truth couldn’t be contained in a jar. . . .”
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. . . .
When I read the description for Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum, I wanted to read it right away. I mean, it sounded so much like The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which is one of my favorite books of all time, and such a great story, that I figured Amaryllis in Blueberry had to be pretty awesome too.
The story is told through alternating narratives. Each family member, and a few additional characters, get a chance to narrate different parts of the story. I think this distracted from the story, as I was constantly trying to keep track of who was who. I thought it was interesting that each of the daughters’ names started with Mary, but it made it difficult to keep track of them as individuals. Besides that, I would have liked the alternating narratives if various people had talked about the same scene. You know how there’s his side, her side, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle? I think that idea would have been particularly interesting in a book like this where the mother is neglectful of all the girls except for Amaryllis (Yllis for short), and the father is somewhat delusional and sometimes emotionally abusive.
There were quite a few similarities with The Poisonwood Bible, which is probably the biggest issue I had with the book. Has the author never read The Poisonwood Bible? Were the similarities a coincidence? I certainly enjoy when authors retell a classic story (say, Heart of Darkness or Rebecca), but I think it becomes particularly important for the author to make a conscious effort to make their story independent of the story they’re retelling. It’s quite possible that I’m mistaken on this fact, and Christina Meldrum did not, in fact, intend for this to be anything like The Poisonwood Bible. Either way, someone should have pointed this out.
I was really disappointed in the ending. Have I grown so jaded that the ending wasn’t bad enough? I couldn’t help but think when I turned the last page, “Oh, is that all that happened?” When the synopsis says, “Dick…can’t possibly foresee how this new land and its people will entrance and change his daughters–and himself–forever.” I expect some really serious consequences to their going over to Africa. The ending just wasn’t quite the devastation I imagined.
All in all, the book was okay, and I did like the author’s writing, but for me the book suffered in being too similar to The Poisonwood Bible.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars