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The Crooked Branch: A Novel Paperback – March 5, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the midst of the Irish famine, young mother Ginny Doyle is struggling to feed her children. Her husband, Raymond, has left for America, looking to find work. In desperation, Ginny takes a job as a chambermaid at the local manor, leaving her 11-year-old daughter in charge. Ginny hopes the money she earns as well as the food she steals from the house larder will help keep her family alive. In present-day New York, Majella and Leo have just become first-time parents. The usually tough Majella finds herself isolated, exhausted, and unsure of her ability to be a good parent. When she discovers her ancestor Ginny’s diary in the attic, Majella becomes engrossed in the story of Ginny’s life and shocked to discover a murder in her family history. The Crooked Branch is the story of two mothers, worlds and generations apart, and their struggles to parent in difficult times. Wonderfully written, with strong, compelling characters, it is a deeply satisfying combination of sweeping historical saga and modern family drama, a gentle reminder of the ever-reaching influence of family, both near and far. --Carol Gladstein


“Even before you come to care about Jeanine Cummins’ rich and intricately drawn characters, before you become enmeshed in her skillfully tangled plot lines about the hard and wondrous task of mothering children in times both catastrophic and ordinary…Before any of that, this is what you have to look forward to: the first page, Ms. Cummins’ luminous prose, and that feeling we’re all hoping to find when we sit down to read: ‘This is it—a book I’m going to love.’”—Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel and The Nobodies Album

“The Crooked Branch explores motherhood, holding onto sanity as life adjusts with a new baby, tilling into that always rich ground of mothers and daughters. Beginning in the famine of Ireland and ending in present-day New York, the story gathers momentum and weight as it unfolds, like watching a freight train thunder along the rails filled with the priceless things of life. As heartbreaking as it is heartening, the story of mothers and what they will do for their babies, touches all the tender places with exquisite timing. Jeanine Cummins is such a good writer. Can't wait to read what she writes next!”—Jo-Ann Mapson, author of Solomon's Oak and Finding Casey

“What an entertaining and moving novel! Though I’ve long known my own ancestors left Ireland because of the devastating potato famine, I never knew much about the history until now. Cummins begins with the utterly relatable Majella, a witty New Yorker struggling with new motherhood and its secret isolation; and sweeps us across the ocean and through time to Ginny, a desperate Irish mother doing her best to support her family. Cummins weaves an exploration of the fierce, primal love of motherhood that connects us all through generations.”—Margaret Dilloway, author of How to Be an American Housewife

“Jeanine Cummins knows that there are stories beneath the stories, and she uses this brilliant knowing to weave a tale that is lyrical, emotional and often funny. This extraordinary novel reminds us how motherhood can make us feel as though we are coming undone while also being remade. Majella and Ginny navigate motherhood with a fierce love that propels the story forward with intense strength. Brilliant, vulnerable and intense, The Crooked Branch pierced my heart and paused my breath.”—Patti Callahan Henry, author of Coming Up for Air and Driftwood Summer

“Exploring the effect of a secret from the past on a woman who is truly on the edge—of motherhood, of her future, of sanity, of happiness—Jeanine Cummins has written a story that truly resonates. Insightful, suspenseful, and sometimes bitingly funny, with characters the reader will think about for weeks, this bittersweet novel is emotional and immensely satisfying.”—Simone St. James, author of An Inquiry into Love and Death

 “The Crooked Branch is a haunting tale of motherhood and the ways in which it can ravage—and resurrect. Cummins's vivid prose and compelling story are burned in my heart.”—Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott and In Need of a Good Wife

 “The Crooked Branch is a gorgeous, sweeping novel, equal parts harrowing and hilarious, that grips you from the first page and keeps you in its thrall. Two wildly different stories—a new mother in present-day Queens, a woman struggling to survive and feed her children during the Irish famine—are beautifully woven together, bound by a ferocious mother’s love that echoes across generations.”—Carolyn Turgeon, author of Godmother



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: NAL (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451239245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451239242
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeanine Cummins is the bestselling author of the groundbreaking memoir A RIP IN HEAVEN and award winning novel THE OUTSIDE BOY. She worked in the publishing industry for ten years before becoming a full-time writer. She was born in Spain, and has lived in California, Maryland, Belfast, and New York City, where she remains now with her Irish husband and growing family. THE CROOKED BRANCH is her second novel.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is her best book yet. From the moment I began reading, I was hooked. Cummins draws us into the lives of two mothers - one in present day New York - the other in Ireland during the famine in the 1840's. The lives seem to parallel each other and the individual struggles of the women, until a strange twist interlaces the stories masterfully. I did not want to put the book down and was desperate to find out what happened next. A beautifully written novel that is certain to touch any mother. I highly recommend The Crooked Branch.
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Format: Paperback
Could it be true? Could Majella have inherited the "crazy" gene from her mother's ancestors?

From present-day New York and then back to Ireland in the 1800's, THE CROOKED BRANCH, covers a family's history and tells of a mother's love as well as the heartaches it brings. Majella, the New York mother, and Ginny, the Irish mother, are distant relatives but share the same things every mother wants for her children and also all of the things a mother fears about motherhood and raising a family. Majella is experiencing a fear of having a family link of craziness after she read of a murder committed by her mother's great-grandmother, Ginny, in a diary she found hidden inside the hem of a dress in the attic of her childhood home.

THE CROOKED BRANCH takes the reader through the potato famine in Ireland to present-day New York. The book allows you to spend a day with Majella in New York and then back to a day in Ginny's life during the potato famine in Ireland. You will follow Majella as she struggles with being a stay-at-home mom dealing with postpartum depression. Both women have their families uppermost in their minds with Majella also struggling with her relationship with her own mother. You will follow Ginny as her family struggles to stay alive because there is no food in Ireland and where people are dying on a daily basis. You will follow Ginny as she has to bear the pain of leaving her four young children alone to find work as a chambermaid in an estate that won't allow her to go home at night and whose mistress becomes involved in Ginny's family life.

The book is fast paced and has detailed descriptions of the characters, the scenes, and the character's feelings.
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Format: Paperback
Majella has just become a new mother. She is going through more then just postpartum depression. She is having dreams about her new born daughter being dead. She worries as mental illness does run in her family heritage. She especially worries when she find a diary in the attic from one of her relatives, Ginny.

Ginny lives in Ireland. A time when the famine was really bad for families. It was fight or perish. Ginny was willing to do anything to survive. How far would she go?

My favorite part of this book was Ginny's story. If this book had been just about Ginny and her children then this would have been a perfect book and I would have given it 5 stars. However, I still enjoyed this book. Why I liked Ginny's story so much better was because of her strong determination and love for her children. Also, she had a great story to tell. I was enriched in history. Also, I admit that I have always been fascinated with stories of Ireland. I hope to go there someday for a visit.

The reason that I was turned off by Majella's story in the present tense was because I felt that Majella was really mean spirited towards her husband and whiny. These attributes of Majella quickly turned me off towards her. I even found myself skipping chapters that involved her, just so that I could get back to Ginny's story. The Crooked Branch is a worth while read!
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Format: Kindle Edition
Reviewed by Robin
Book provided by the publisher for review
Review originally posted at Romancing the Book

A number of years ago when my two boys (who are now grown men, well they like to think they are) were young boys, I had stayed up to watch the movie ‘IT’ by Stephen King. Having finished watching the entire movie rather late, I might add, I found that sleep just wouldn’t come to me. Instead I could see the clowns running around in my house and I feared for the boys. So instead of sleep I kept getting up to check on them eventually sleeping on their floor to protect them from any monsters that might harm them.

What does this have to do with my review you ask? Well, there are times when our mind gets the better of us and we can actually talk ourselves into things that others would find somewhat farfetched. As a mother we tend to do things others wouldn’t think of because we feel that it is our way of looking out for our families. We have good intentions but sometimes they don’t work out the way we have it mapped out in our head. Ms. Cummings did a wonderful job at getting across two different views of two very strong women that find that their lives are parallel in a way and how they cope with the day to day struggles of dealing with raising their children; fighting for survival of life and what it costs us as women.

We first meet Majella a new mom who has just had a daughter. Dealing with postpartum depression she dreams of that her young daughter Emma is dead. This alone can be scary because if she were to go off the deep end she could actually harm her daughter. Her husband Leo is a chef in Queens, and things are a little stained between them. Ms.
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