Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum

Amaryllis in Blueberry Amaryllis in Blueberry opens with Seena who is on trial in a West African country for having murdered her husband. The opening pages are provocative as Seena grapples with the reality of her racism and the fact that she has somehow projected her own ideas of who her husband is on to him instead of loving the man himself. This opening effectively hooks the reader into wanting to know just how this women ended up in this place and why.

The story is told through a variety of perspectives--Dick, Seena's, their four daughters and occasional other characters. Only Amaryllis's (the youngest daughter) perspective is first person, but the others seem like very deep point of views. The chapters are at times quite brief, just enough to reveal what's really going on in the mind of the character.

Dick is a fairly religious man, and when something happens that deeply upsets him, he follows his priest's advice to move to Africa. He takes his family and suddenly the many problems plaguing each of them individually intensify and come to a boiling point in their strange new location, while they are also in many ways drawn closer together.

The writing in Amaryllis in Blueberry is beautiful, sharp, and insightful. The characters are well defined and distinct. Meldrum explores a lot of thematic territory here. What is love? How do you know the difference between really loving someone and loving only the image you have of them? What is faith?

There is a lot of exploration of God here, particularly how each character relates to the issue of religion in their lives. The father considers himself a devout Catholic and one of his daughters follows in his footsteps. Some of the other sisters don't believe at all, Seena does not believe in God either, yet because of the beliefs of her husband it's something she has to deal with regularly. Admittedly, some of them seem to pick up God and drop Him in a very American fashion. If things are going their way they consider the idea God is real and feeling favorable toward them, when things take a different turn, suddenly they decide God must not be real after all. God as love experienced between humans is also a common approach.

While some believability issues may arise due to the ease with which the family obtains a placement in Africa, and the ending doesn't feel as smoothly executed as it could possibly have been, thoughtful readers are sure to find much to enjoy and think about between the pages of Amaryllis in Blueberry.

Rating: 4.25/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Profanity, a bit of sex
Source of Book: ARC received for review
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)

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