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Amaryllis in Blueberry Paperback – February 8, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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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
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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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,736,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top 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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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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Loved Amaryllis in Blueberry......perhaps the most lovely title ever. This book is just so much fun that I feel compelled to give it 5 stars even if it does have a few problems. I think the biggest problem that this book faces is being compared to "The Poisenwood Bible"....which is on my top 10 all time fav list. OK...this is not Barbara Kingsolver....so getting past that once and for all....this young author is very talented and has used Greek Mythology....Catholicism....synesthesia together with fabulous insight on African culture and family dynamics to create a tapestry of a literary piece that is pretty irresistable. Without writing an irritating "book report" (whats that about...anyway ) she includes adultery..intense sibling drama...geriatric angst....lush scenery and beautiful prose with such real feeling that I can not help but being very impressed. Her previous book was a young adult novel and the only complaint I have with this one is that I can feel the young adult voice just a little bit. A few structural glitches here and their had me "going back" more than I like to on my Kindle. That is more of a Kindle problem than one with the book though....I really urge everyone to read this...so many interesting themes for discussion. A totally enjoyable experience.
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Christina Meldrum has taken us on a complex eerie voyage of body and mind. It is primarily through the sisters, Amaryllis, Mary Grace, Mary Catherine and Mary Tessa voices, that we are introduced to a family held together by the power of imagination and dreams. Relationships between husband and wife, father and daughters, mother and daughters, and sisters with sisters are all finely drawn to pose the question of how much we imagine and how much is real about the people we interact with.
All woven in mystery and Greek mythology, the reader becomes enmeshed in the intriguing, often shocking, encounters and revelations this simple family are met with when they leave Michigan and relocate to Africa. For the husband it means starting a new life free of suspicion, while his wife and daughters are drawn to memories of a long ago past.
We highly recommend this book, and expect it to become a book club favorite. There is a lot to talk about once you've come out of your Amaryllis trance.
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