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Amaryllis in Blueberry Paperback – February 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Meldrum's intoxicating first adult novel (after 2010's Madapple) a family undertakes West African missionary work only to find its members profoundly transformed. Polish-American pathologist Dick Slepy lives with his bohemian wife, Christina "Seena," in Danish Landing, Mich. They have four daughters, each following the other by two years. There's pretty Mary Grace, now 18. Mary Catherine is "always-obedient" and pious, whereas Mary Tessa is a "trouble-maker-in-training," and the precocious Amaryllis, their youngest at 11, is an "emotional synesthete," who tastes, smells, and otherwise "consumes" the pain, rage, love, or joy of others, and is suspiciously dark-featured. Fearing that his wife is having an affair, Dick seeks the council of his local priest, Father Amadi, who suggests the Slepys take a mission to West Africa to help his nephew, Mawuli, run an aid organization. They go, but the mission is anything but the salve Dick had hoped for, and one event after another—including unplanned pregnancies, accusations of molestation, the discovery of affairs, attempted murder, and Seena being tried in a local court—shove the family into deep crisis. With every chapter, Meldrum jumps viewpoints and shifts time and space (between Michigan and West Africa in the summer and fall of 1976), creating a momentum that masks a lack of imagination. Yet her combination of coming-of-age and culture clash narratives has a seductive intensity. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

By the time the Slepy family relocates from rural Michigan to remote West Africa, due to Dick�s impulsive notion that he should become a medical missionary to atone for his prurient behavior, they were already in disarray. Mother Seena pines for her lover, the family�s biracial priest, while Dick tries to reconcile his hypocritical love for the Virgin Mary with his hedonistic lust for decidedly nonvirginal prostitutes and porn stars. Their four daughters, three named Mary, cope with their neglectful absentee parenting in their own ways. Vain Mary Grace is pregnant, the result of a one-night stand with her loser boyfriend, Rocky. Pious Mary Catherine is in end-stage anorexia. Arrogant Mary Tessa holds everyone in high disdain. Only the youngest, Amaryllis, nicknamed Yllis, sees into everyone�s souls, an ability that brings as much woe as wisdom. Meldrum�s highly anticipated follow-up to the acclaimed Madapple (2010) again delves into issues of identity and faith, with disarming results. --Carol Haggas

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439156891
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439156896
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,853,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christina M. Meldrum is the author of the award-winning novel MADAPPLE and of AMARYLLIS IN BLUEBERRY, forthcoming in February 2011 from Gallery, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Review: Embarking on tragedy, Amaryllis in Blueberry is a deep, probing novel surrounding the implications and consequences of neglect, unfaithfulness, and ignorance upon a middle-class suburban family whose fate is redirected as a result of thoughtless actions and their reckless outcomes. As a whole, I feel this book tries too hard to have as profound an effect as The Poisonwood Bible did, with a reference right inside the jacket flap. Now, I've read The Poisonwood Bible and it's one of my favorites; I know Amaryllis in Blueberry is not exactly the same--the themes, morals, and overall effect are all different--but the premise itself is one that cannot be created without being compared: a mother, father, and four daughters are plucked out of Betty Crocker America and plopped into the wilderness that is Africa, and their lives are changed forever.

Here's a line that sums up the Slepys:
"[They] are all islands unto themselves, and while each island may have clean water and electricity and toilets that flush, being isolated on an island is lonely indeed."
Each of the characters, while extensively explored and unrooted, are at their foundation, very shallow. I didn't particularly like or dislike any of them.

Dick Slepy, head of household, is extremely ordinary and particularly foolish for constantly urging the impossible:
"[He] thinks he can will himself a Dane and will his wife affectionate and will his children respectful, [and also] thinks demanding a perfect family, while snapping a photo of what looks like one, is the equivalent of having one.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bookworm on February 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
I loved this book! I read Christina Meldrum's last book, Madapple, and bought this one as soon as it was released. I love her writing style. It is both detailed and beautiful. When you read her books, you are entertained, challenged and educated! I can't wait for the next book.
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Format: Paperback
AMARYLLIS IN BLUEBERRY by Christina Meldrum is a contemporary historical fiction set in 1970's Michigan and Africa.It is written in a series of flashbacks from the past to the present. It intertwines past history/story with present. It has adultery,forgiveness,redemption,love,family saga,murder,meditation of faith,loyalty,love,
acceptance,Africa,missionaries,fate,buried secrets,sacrifice,slavery,culture difference,exploration of faith,synesthete(visions of artificial light around someone or something)and truth. This is the story of a husband's(Dick) obsession of his wife,Seena,a wife(Seena) who has committed adultery years before,is accused of her husband's murder and four daughters with four secrets.The youngest daughter,Amaryllis,is the child in question,she was born in an Blueberry patch.This is a compelling story of love and a family being forced from their home in Michigan to take up roots as a missionary in Africa,their trials,tributations and culture shock.If you enjoy a complex story with many facets this is a story for you. This book was received for the purpose of review from Gallery Books and details can be found .0at Gallery Books,a division of Simon & Schuster,Inc. and My Book Addiction and More.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By joyful VINE VOICE on April 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
The cool, lovely cover of Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum belies a firecracker of a first chapter in which Seena is being tried by a witch doctor in Africa for the murder of her husband, Dick. From there, the narrative goes back to months before in Michigan to reveal what happened to lead up to Dick's murder. Unlike what the title suggests, this novel is not solely written from the point of view of the youngest daughter, Amaryllis, Yllis for short. The narrative shifts from the various points of view of the Slepys - Seena, Dick, and their four "Marys," which has the effect of seeing the same event from very different perspectives. And as the narrative shifts, so do the characters, my perception of them changing once I got into their minds. Almost each one has his/her own explosive secret and yearns for, but never receives love and acceptance.

Meldrum's writing is incandescent and sublime at times, most effective when describing Yllis's unique gifts and how she sees the world and people around her:

"I was different, and not just on the surface. I didn't fit in my family, I didn't fit in at school. Classmates and teachers (and Mary Tessa) so ridiculed me for my "wild imagination," I wasn't sure I belonged on earth. Yet I knew things about earth-about people on earth. I often knew things about earth-about people on earth. I often knew what people would say before they spoke. I knew whom people loved, whom they despised. I knew what gave others joy and fury and envy, even when they didn't seem to know themselves.

"Just to set the records straight, envy is not green. And rage isn't red hot, and the blues have nothing to do with blue. Envy is more dust colored, a transparent sort of gray. It quivers, like heat rising.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Darlene @ Peeking Between the Pages on April 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum is another novel that will make my favorites list this year! This novel is so beautifully written and full of emotion, both good and bad, that it will capture you from the beginning and not let go until you turn the very last page and truthfully not even then; I'm still thinking about this story. Also, this cover - have you ever seen anything so beautiful!

This story is different in that it starts with the ending. Yes, strange but once you read the book, very fitting. The author does not give away the whole ending - just pieces that are revealed bit by bit as you come towards the actual end of the novel. It's also a story that jumps around a lot - different narrators and there is always the before and the after and even while in Africa the story jumps back to Michigan with more background. While it may sound like it would be confusing, it isn't. Amazingly it all flows so well - one piece into the next until you are just left amazed by the way the story unfolds before your eyes.

The Slepy's are a dysfunctional family to say the least. You know that right off the start. There is Dick and Seena and their four daughters - Mary Grace, Mary Catherine, Mary Tessa, and Amaryllis who was born in a blueberry patch and is considered the strangest of her family with her very wild imagination. The thing is that Yllis as they call Amaryllis is special; she can see and feel what others can't. She is also more special to her mother at the expense of the other girls for reasons that become apparent as you read on through the novel.

Seena is an emotionally distant mother who seems more buried in her books than anything else. She doesn't see anything around her or if she does she just brushes it off.
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