Excerpt from Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Ursula, Under

by Ingrid Hill

Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill X
Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2004, 476 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2005, 512 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

1
Ursula

On a crystalline, perfectly blue morning in June, after a day of angry pewter skies and of sheeting, driving rain, we enter our story. Clouds pile themselves picturesquely, theatrically, like plump odalisques, against the blue, clear-edged and astonishing. The forest all around is a palette of greens. Wild chokecherry trees are in raucous bloom. It is as if this were the first morning of the world, perfect. Even the garter snakes slithering under roots, over rocks, over roots, through the grass seem a part of the day's jubilance. Dew on fat ferns catches the sunlight in bursts and disperses it, starlike.

We are just miles inland from the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan, which juts out into Lake Superior, the arrival point for the earliest hardy wide-eyed settlers arriving from the East on lake packet boats to stake claims and seek copper, well before the Civil War. Lifting off from a branch overhead, a red-winged blackbird calls out clearly something that sounds much like kee'-we-naw, the native word for "portage." Many things here that are not called Keweenaw are called its English equivalent, Portage, almost as if life were much like a brief transit across a wee stretch of land.

It is Monday, June 9, 2003. Our story itself began long before, if we believe that all back story is also story, that the underside of the iceberg explains what we see above: all those wind-sculpted shapes that, looking for all the world like praying hands, came to be called, by fanciful meteorologists, nieves penitentes, or penitents sculpted of snow. Still, a painful and highly unusual event happens this glorious morning, and it is through this tiny aperture that we enter our narrative.

We are at the moment seeing through the eyes of Ursula Wong, a child with dark Asian eyes, café-au-lait complexion, and a thick blond braid down her back that seems frankly too much hair for a two-and-a-half-year-old to have had time to grow. Ursula has had her second birthday on November 19. She is a child small in stature, five pounds nine ounces at birth and now just over twenty-seven pounds, as of her spring checkup. She wears denim bib overalls with a purple T-shirt beneath; in the cool of the morning she has insisted on putting on her purple hooded jacket for the weather. Snow mittens are clipped to the sleeve ends. Yes, they are purple too. It is perfect and cool in the sixties.

Her mother, Annie, says, "Honey, you don't need a coat. It's June." Her father, Justin, says to Annie, "She'll figure it out pretty quick. She'll take it off herself and think it was her own idea.";

In a clearing a couple of hundred feet down an untraveled dirt track into the forest, a glade carpeted by short grass kept low by odd gravel-shot soil, Ursula is crouched on her haunches examining tiny white blooms on wild strawberry plants in the grass. Each tiny bloom is a star. Ursula is transfixed.

Ursula and her young parents have traveled almost five hours west and north from their home in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. They have spent the night at a Super 8 Motel in Houghton, a town that houses the state's mining college, now more diversified as mine after mine has shut down. The motel faces Portage Lake, and Justin, who is an installer of vinyl siding and gutters, has paid the five dollars extra for a room with a view of the lake and the opposite shore. They rarely leave home, and this overnight away is a treat..

Ursula has splashed in the pool and run around on the motel's wooden deck, puddled from the day's rain. She has giggled delightedly as with the heel of her hand she pounded buttons in the lobby vending machine to make foil packets of chocolate-chip cookies fall, klunk, to the bottom of the machine. Ursula has suggested in a business-like way that they might live here. Justin has reminded her that Grandma Mindy is back home, and her purple carpet in her bedroom and all her stuffed animals. "Oh," Ursula has said. "That's true." Sober as a church mouse, clear-spoken as a valedictorian.

From Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill. Copyright Ingrid Hill 2004. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Treeborne
    Treeborne
    by Caleb Johnson
    The Treeborne family has lived on The Seven – the local sobriquet for a seven-acre stretch of ...
  • Book Jacket
    Grace
    by Paul Lynch
    Harrowing. Gorgeous. Epic. Grace, Paul Lynch's coming of age novel about a young woman, is set ...
  • Book Jacket: The Perfectionists
    The Perfectionists
    by Simon Winchester
    We seek precision in our lives every day. We want to drive from home to work and work to home safely...
  • Book Jacket: Beauty in the Broken Places
    Beauty in the Broken Places
    by Allison Pataki
    Ernest Hemingway wrote that we are "strong at the broken places," and Allison Pataki found that to ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Family Tabor
    by Cherise Wolas

    Wolas's gorgeously rendered sophomore novel reckons with the nature of the stories we tell ourselves.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Clock Dance
    by Anne Tyler

    A delightful novel of one woman's transformative journey, from the best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win A Place for Us

A Place For Us

A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H, W H A Problem

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.