BookBrowse Reviews Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum

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

Amaryllis in Blueberry

by Christina Meldrum

Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum X
Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    Feb 2011, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


In the tradition of The Secret Life of Bees, a first novel that explores the complexity of human relationships

Dick Slepy is troubled. As patriarch of the Slepy family, Dick longs to be the commanding force that tightly holds his wife and maturing daughters together. As a commuting pathologist, however, he has instead become a "weekender" who helplessly watches as his family becomes incrementally unglued.

As a child, Dick desperately turned to God and the Virgin Mary as stand-ins for his own less perfect parents. In the fullness of faith, "Dick carried his burdens to God through Mary, and Mary lifted those burdens away." But now that Dick is a man trying to raise his own four daughters, the clear guidance and adoration once found in his youth has become far more complex.

Dick's wife Seena is also working off the script of a poorly written childhood. Because she "had never been loved - not by a parent, never with depth," she struggles to mother her own daughters. As the girls grow up, Seena escapes by burying herself in her books to avoid the raw truths that surround her, including her favoritism of youngest daughter Amaryllis (nicknamed Yllis).

Yllis is aware that she is different from her sisters, and it doesn't take long for the reader to agree. Yllis is acutely alert that much is amiss in and around her home. Sympathetic yet strong, the dark and intuitive Yllis knows she has broken the fair Slepy mold, so she floats on the family periphery, both observing and absorbing the errors of her family. "For eleven years I'd been a consumer, slogging down others' pain, inhaling others' rage, drinking their love, jittering with their joy. Yet I'd never considered who I was."

Soon Yllis is not the only one to recognize that the Slepy family facade is crumbling. Betrayals and doubts of biblical proportion desperately drive Dick to seek out the counsel of the parish priest. Placing his faith once again in the hands of God, Dick recklessly packs up his family and heads to Africa.

Things begin to shimmer, quite literally, when the Slepys touch down in West Africa. Meldrum beautifully conveys the vibrant colors and pulsing, energetic rhythm of the land and its people. "The women's clothing is as the ground itself, as if the ground were picked up and wound and wrapped and tied. Red-orange and orange-red, the African earth shows like a magic carpet, bubbled beneath by a lifting wind."

Meldrum carefully crafts her African characters, and the shrewd Mawuli is no exception. Acting as translator and cultural interpreter, Mawuli cleverly bridges the ethnological gap. Through her colorful characters Meldrum works Africa's deep-rooted rituals, landscape, and history into the story's threads as Seena, Dick, and the Slepy girls fall under Africa's magical spell.

Amaryllis in Blueberry is divided into five books narrated through a rotation of voices. Though each individual voice of the Slepy family carries a strong and certain point of view, the shifting perspectives make it difficult to become too attached to any one character. In addition, the necessary transformation and cultural adaptation that takes place in the span of just a few months feels a touch forced; therefore the timeline Meldrum provides might prove a bit fragile for the more detail-oriented reader.

That said, Amaryllis in Blueberry works. Meldrum's style and story capture the reader's attention and easily hold it to the end. Amaryllis 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

This review is from the March 9, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
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!

Beyond the Book:
  Slave Castles & Synthethesia

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hungry
    Hungry
    by Jeff Gordinier
    Noma, René Redzepi's restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, has widely been considered among the ...
  • Book Jacket: With the Fire on High
    With the Fire on High
    by Elizabeth Acevedo
    From Like Water for Chocolate to Ratatouille, writers have recognized the power ...
  • Book Jacket: Lanny
    Lanny
    by Max Porter
    At once beautifully poignant and hauntingly grotesque, Max Porter's Lanny is like an unexpected ...
  • Book Jacket
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Beirut Hellfire Society
    by Rawi Hage

    A searing and visionary novel set in 1970s Beirut that asks what it means to live through war.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake

"An American epic in the truest sense…"
Entertainment Weekly

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win In the Full Light of the Sun

New from Clare Clark!

"Evocative prose and excellent pacing make this fine historical a must-read for art history buffs."
- Publishers Weekly

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A A A Day K T D A

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 the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.