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Book Chat – Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum

Title: Amaryllis in Blueberry [buy the book]
Author: Christina Meldrum [website] [Facebook] [Twitter]
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction
Date Published: February 8, 2011

(A little more love to Galleysmith for the inspiration of how to set up the title, author, genre, etc.)

Summary:

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. . . .

My thoughts:

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

11 comments »

11 Responses to “Book Chat – Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum”

  1. Sandy ()

    Again, you’ve hit the nail on the head. An author can write about any damn thing they want, so WHY THIS? She had to have known that it would be compared, so why even go there? Why not go to South America or Nepal or something? The writing was beautiful, but overall I thought the construction of the plot was a jumbled mess.

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  2. bermudaonion (Kathy) ()

    I liked this book, but felt like I was missing something as I read it. I just wasn’t sure what the point of it was.

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  3. zibilee ()

    When this book first came out, I was totally caught in the hype and bought it right away. But then I started reading some pretty tepid reviews of it, and I started getting less and less excited about actually reading it. I also don’t like that it’s virtually a carbon copy of The Posionwood Bible, and like you, I can’t believe that was just coincidence. It will probably be a long time before I do read this, but when I do, I will be interested in seeing exactly what I make of it.

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  4. Kathleen

    I love Poisonwood Bible too so I don’t think I would take kindly to a book that too closely resembled it and then didn’t live up to the same standard.

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  5. Amused ()

    Hmmm, well I really loved The Poisonwood Bible so maybe I would still really like it.

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  6. Kailana ()

    That’s too bad this didn’t work so well for you…

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  7. Lisa

    I’ve read a couple of glowing reviews about this one but I did wonder about the similarities to Poisonwood. A couple of people told me that it was different enough to appreciate on its own but clearly that wasn’t the case for you! I’m thinking it wouldn’t be for me either.

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  8. Jennygirl

    Ok so read the Poisonwood Bible, that’s what I’m getting from this. You got it! Sorry this didn’t work for you, on to the next one!

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  9. Holly (2 Kids and Tired)

    I’ve wanted to read this one, but the reviews just don’t seem to be all that great. I think I’m going to pass. Multiple narratives/perspectives really grates on me.
    2 Kids and Tired Books

    [Reply]

  10. Amarylis - BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS WORLD – BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS WORLD

    […] Book Chat – Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum | Hey Lady …Description : Title: Amaryllis in Blueberry Author: Christina Meldrum Pages: 384 Genre: Fiction Date Published: February 8, 2011 (A little more love to.http://heylady.net/2011/07/12/ .. […]

  11. Irene Brown ()

    Never really liked the Poison Wood Bible and struggled again to get to the end of this book. Then questioned,”Is that all?” Why does an author spend so much time and effort and then an editor who”approves” and then we are enticed to read thinking this will be a good one. Hard to beat, “Cutting for Stone.”

    [Reply]

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