Summary and book reviews of Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum

Amaryllis in Blueberry

by Christina Meldrum

Amaryllis in Blueberry
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  • Paperback:
    Feb 2011, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

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About this Book

Book Summary

Amaryllis in Blueberry explores the complexity of human relationships through the haunting voices of Dick and Seena Slepy and their four daughters in a soulful novel which weaves together the past and the present of a family harmed—and healed—by buried secrets.

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. . . .

Chapter 1

BEFORE
Yllis

Danish Landing, Michigan

Mama said I was born in a blueberry field—that 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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

In a West African village, Seena Slepy stands trial for the murder of her husband, Dick, a doctor who brought his family from their home in the United States to do humanitarian work. How Seena got to this crossroads, with her fate hanging in the balance, is told in a series of flashbacks. Richly atmospheric, Amaryllis in Blueberry is a stirring, soulful novel about the intricacies of human relationships and the haunting nature of secrecy.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

  1. Amaryllis in Blueberry is told from the viewpoints of Seena, Dick, their four daughters, their neighbor Clara, and finally the priest Heimdall. How do the varied perspectives affect you as a reader? The final chapter is...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Meldrum jumps viewpoints and shifts time and space creating a momentum that masks a lack of imagination. Yet her combination of coming-of-age and culture clash narratives has a seductive intensity.

Library Journal

Meldrum keeps the reader wanting to know more about the family through carefully intertwined story lines ... Readers will compare this work to Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible...

Kirkus Reviews

The book opens with Seena on trial in a native African court for Dick's murder and works its way back to that point in a colorful tale about people who don't know how to communicate with one another.

Author Blurb Meg Waite Clayton, author of the national bestseller, The Wednesday Sisters
Amaryllis in Blueberry will stay with readers long after its surprising and satisfying ending, and leave book clubs talking late into the night.

Author Blurb Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay It Forward, Becoming Chloe, Jumpstart the World
A gripping and satisfying read. First you'll race to the end, then you'll tell everyone you know to read it-partly for their benefit, partly so you'll be able to talk about it with someone.

Author Blurb New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah
Christina Meldrum is a fresh, invigorating new voice in women's fiction. Amaryllis in Blueberry is a beautifully written, completely compelling novel that grabbed me from the very first page and wouldn't let me go. I especially loved the African setting.

Reader Reviews

Patricia Petrie

Addicting and unforgettable
Christina Meldrum is an exquisite writer. Amaryllis in Blueberry is scintillating, tantalizing and every morsel is pure delight. Her depiction of an American family in Africa is breathtaking and profoundly informative. I could not put the book down.

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Beyond the Book

Slave Castles & Synthethesia

Slave Castles
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.

St....

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