Polish-American Dick Slepy and his family lives in Danish Landing, Michigan. They have four daughters, each two years apart and named after Virgin Mary: Mary Grace (the pretty one), Mary Catherine (the obedient one), Mary Tessa (the troublemaker) and Amaryllis (the emotional synesthete). Under the counsel of the local priest, Dick packs up his family and moves to West Africa for an aid organization. The culture clash causes a whirlwind of events such as unplanned pregnancies, affairs, accusations, and murder.
It was a complex read, but interesting. With the exception of the final chapter, the story is told from the viewpoint of four daughters, their mother Seena, father Dick, and neighbor Clara. The mother is emotionally distant. Blueberry-eyed Yllis, the youngest daughter, is an emotional synesthete and easily detects the sensations of others. "For synesthetes like me, the world is a layer cake of emotion, and we are its consumers," Yllis states on page 90. Shifting from past to present, we read the events that lead up to the mother on trial for murdering her husband. Sound familiar? It is very similar to The Poisonwood Bible and The Secret Life of Bees.
African myths, Greek myths, and Catholic faiths are woven into the perspectives of each character. In particular, the Greek myth of Amaryllis and Pandora's Box are explained. Although it is not a Christian-based novel, religion plays a key role. Other themes include justice, obsession, and self-perception. Christina Meldrum's writing style draws you in from the opening paragraph with dramatic scenes. Don't miss this engrossing read.
Title: Amaryllis in Blueberry
Author: Christina Meldrum
Published: February 2011