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Review: Amaryllis in Blueberry

February 25, 2011

Dick and Seena Slepy have four daughters – Mary Grace, Mary Catherine, Mary Tessa and Amaryllis.  They also have a troubled marriage.  Dick is deeply religious and so are some of the girls, but Seena is not.  Dick thinks he can save their marriage if he moves his family away from Michigan.  Since he’s a pathologist, he’s able to go through his priest and get  his family an assignment to a clinic in West Africa fairly quickly.  They’re only there for a short time before they realize just how broken their family life is and they’re struck by disaster – Dick dies.

The structure of Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum is interesting and unique.  It starts with the end of the story – the first sentence is “Dick is dead.”  The reader is taken back into the recent past and told the story from the alternating points of view of all six family members, plus two family friends.  Each character tells their story in the present tense, except Amaryllis, whose story is told in the past tense, adding another interesting element to the story.

The characters in this book are fascinating.  They are each obsessed with something almost to a fault.  They harbor secrets and communicate so poorly, they’re a family in name only.  Amaryllis is a synesthete which makes the other members of her family so uncomfortable, she’s almost an outsider.

I have to admit that, because of the similarity of their names, I had a little trouble keeping track of the Slepy daughters at first.  I ended up making myself a little cheat sheet with each girl’s name and age on it and once I did that, I found that I quickly got lost in the story and was anxious to know the ending.  Even with that, Amaryllis in Blueberry is not a book to read quickly.  It’s full of nuances, allusions and symbolism, and I’m sure a lot of it was lost on me.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the story, because I definitely did.  I think this book explores the relationship between religion and the church, among other things, and I found it fascinating.

This was my book club’s read for February and all but two members loved it.  Those who didn’t love it liked it a lot.  We discussed this book for over an hour, talking about everything from religion to cultural differences to the way secrets can affect a relationship.  Most people felt the structure of the book enhanced the story and helped build suspense.  Everyone agreed that there was a lot of symbolism and mythological references that we missed throughout the book and two members said they plan to read the book again to try to pick up on them.  This book was a hit at our meeting!

Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
41 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2011 5:36 am

    I read about this book this week – apart from the story I found the cover gorgeous!!!!

  2. February 25, 2011 5:39 am

    I had to just skim your review because I’m hoping to get to this one soon. Glad that everyone seemed to like (or love) it and that it generated a good conversation.

  3. February 25, 2011 6:42 am

    I have been dying to read this book ever since I first saw it . Thanks to your review, I am even more intrigued by the premise of the book. Can’t wait to read it!

  4. February 25, 2011 6:46 am

    Luv the title of this book. Have had my eye on it after hearing recommendations. Can’t imagine what happens after the opening sentence.

  5. February 25, 2011 6:53 am

    I can’t wait to read this one. It is up next, after The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove. I’ve been told not to compare to Poisonwood Bible, but it is hard not to!

  6. February 25, 2011 7:37 am

    This book has me at its cover and title. It looks and sounds gorgeous!

  7. February 25, 2011 8:30 am

    I just love that color blue on the cover.

  8. February 25, 2011 8:39 am

    Love the title and wonderful review Kathy! I get mixed up with names too and dont like it when characters names sound too close too one another like what you mention here. I too would probably need a cheat sheet but still find this book fascinating!

  9. kaye permalink
    February 25, 2011 8:52 am

    That sounds like an interesting format – going backwards and I love when an author gives the reader so many different perspectives. When I read the names of the daughters, I thought of George Forman and his 6?+/- sons all named George. I’m going to put this one on the list definitely. Thanks for a great review.

  10. February 25, 2011 9:17 am

    Wow, this sounds fantastic. My mom actually had a family of cousins all named “Mary Something,” so that really resonates with me. I also love the multiple narrator format. This is going directly on the TBR.

  11. February 25, 2011 10:07 am

    The cover was the first thing to draw me in but now as I’ve heard more and more good reviews I really want to read this.

  12. February 25, 2011 10:26 am

    I am so curious about this book after reading such great reviews! I think it sounds a lot like The Poisonwood Bible, and I would love to see the way they are similar and the way they are different. I am also thrilled to hear that your book club loved it so much! It sounds like it’s a winner all around and I can’t wait to try it for myself. So glad to see this review!

  13. February 25, 2011 10:38 am

    I’ve been thinking about this one for a while and I’m finally hooked with the help of this book trailer. Intriguing.

  14. February 25, 2011 10:52 am

    I love the cover too! But I do hate when authors have to give similar names to characters, even if it’s to make a point.

  15. February 25, 2011 11:07 am

    It was love at first sight when I saw the cover. It’s on my wishlist. Glad you loved it.

  16. February 25, 2011 11:51 am

    I love that first line! It must be really good if only two people in your group didn’t like it.

  17. February 25, 2011 12:27 pm

    This book sounds fantastic, and I just love the cover.

  18. February 25, 2011 1:42 pm

    It sounds like a wonderful discussion book!

  19. February 25, 2011 2:10 pm

    Your review is excellent!!!!

  20. February 25, 2011 2:45 pm

    Lovely review, Kathy. This seems like movie material to me (and not just because of the intriguing book trailer).

  21. Beth Hoffman permalink
    February 25, 2011 2:50 pm

    Wow, Kathy … what a fantastic review!

  22. February 25, 2011 3:04 pm

    This cover is gorgeous, I think you picked up on some themes I haven’t heard other bloggers use on their reviews, intriguing indeed.

  23. February 25, 2011 4:57 pm

    Sounds good, but yes some books sure have to be read slowly to catch everything in them.

  24. February 25, 2011 6:25 pm

    Awesome review!

  25. February 25, 2011 6:41 pm

    First, this was a great review. Second, your bookclub sounds like fun!!! 🙂

  26. February 25, 2011 7:50 pm

    I am reading this right now and I too am lost when it comes to all the symbolism. The story is good so far. The Mary’s are kind of confusing me so I think I’ll do like you did and make a cheat sheet. I can see where your book club would have much to discuss with this book. I enjoyed your review.

  27. February 25, 2011 7:57 pm

    any book that can keep book club members chatting for over an hour must have some really interesting plot lines and themes. i love books told from multiple perspectives and this one sounds like one i should reserve. thanks for the review–and that cover is very enticing!

  28. February 25, 2011 9:15 pm

    Your reviews make me want to read all of the books you write about!

  29. February 25, 2011 10:48 pm

    That sure sounds fascinating! You’ve written your review as a mystery too, because now I’m going to have to look for it and know what it’s all about!

  30. February 26, 2011 1:48 am

    It sounds interesting, but I’m unsure I want to read it since i didn’t enjoy Madapple, also by this author, so much. Good review though!

  31. February 26, 2011 6:10 am

    it is a pretty cover…but I must say that I find those daughter’s names annoying. I assume the author had a point…but I would still find it annoying

  32. February 26, 2011 11:09 am

    i just read and recently reviewed this book this week! i have to agree with you on the difficulty of keeping track of all the girls. and alot of the symbolism and allusions were lost on me too, but i definitely enjoyed it! glad you thought the same.

  33. February 26, 2011 1:03 pm

    Loved this review – like your cheat sheet idea and always glad to hear that someone else is in the back row of class with me missing out on the deep allusions but enjoying the story just the same!

  34. February 26, 2011 7:17 pm

    It always bugs me when I enjoy a book but I know it went over my head. That’s such a pretty blue.

  35. February 26, 2011 8:08 pm

    I read about your book club and the reading ventures you’ve taken. I am so envious. My little niche of friends are those who pass on books to each other and maybe one day I’ll get us a band of readers to slay those plots together.

    Going to note this one down and will be mindful of the nuances with the similar names. Another A plus review 🙂

  36. February 26, 2011 8:56 pm

    I’ve read nothing but rave reviews of this one…I so have to read it this year!

  37. February 27, 2011 4:37 am

    This one sounds very good too, Kathy. Now my wish list is brimming with wonderful suggestions. This is what happens when I read my all favorite blogs in one sitting and come away full with wonderful book titles…

  38. February 27, 2011 12:01 pm

    I’m glad to hear your book club loved this one! I’m looking forward to reading it.

  39. February 27, 2011 4:47 pm

    Great review Kathy. I really enjoyed this book as well and, like you, I’m positive a lot of it was lost on me. lol.

  40. February 27, 2011 7:59 pm

    It sounds interesting … and definitely a good book club read. Don’t you love when a book gets everyone animated and talking?

  41. March 1, 2011 5:26 pm

    Awesome review Kathy. I am so on the fence about this one. I really can’t decide! I think I’ll check my library for it. 2 Kids and Tired Books

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