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 harmedand healedby 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 daughtersand himselfforever.
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. . . .
Danish Landing, Michigan
Mama said I was born in a blueberry fieldthat she was squatting, not to birth me, just to pick. Her hands were stained that purple-blue, and her lips were ringed black-blue, and a once-plump blueberry teetered on her tongue, staining her teeth as gray as a November sky. But it wasn't November, it was steamy July, Independence Day. And in the distance Mama could hear the sizzle on the Landing, where long-legged Mary Grace, always-obedient Mary Catherine, and troublemaker-in-training Mary Tessa swirled their sparklers, their sun-streaked hair dancing so close to the ephemeral glow that three-year-old Tessa singed her golden tips a crispy black.
"What in God's name?" Mama asked, as if she didn't know. She'd birthed the Marys in a steady succession like they were part of a fugue. Every two years a new one appeared, almost to the day: their bald heads glistened like the harvest moon and their dark lashes crept down their ...
Meldrum's style and story capture the reader's attention and easily hold it to the end. Amaryllis in Blueberry holds a trove of literary surprises and plot twists. More importantly, Meldrum's universal message of family resounds, "...souls don't stand alone. What makes a soul a soul is the shared burden and pain, the shared joy: it's the connection between us that carries on." The connections that we share—across continents or just across the dinner table—are at the heart of Meldrum's richly evocative novel.
(Reviewed by Megan Shaffer).
Full Review (989 words).
A pivotal scene in Amaryllis in Blueberry occurs when the Slepy family visits one of West Africa's slave castles. Though the slave castle in the story isn't mentioned by name, research will lead you to the Elmina and the Cape Coast region located on the coast of Ghana.
Castles were constructed along the coveted West African coast by European traders. The castles were originally built as trading posts and military forts due to their strategic positioning and proximity to the water. Though these trading posts were originally utilized for such items as gold, ivory, timber, and spices, by the late 1400s trade had expanded to include the buying and selling of human cargo in the form of African slaves.
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