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Madapple Hardcover – May 13, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—In Bethan, ME, 1987, Maren is pregnant; she claims that she is still a virgin. The story of her daughter, Aslaug, follows. She is raised by her severe mother in isolation. Her homeschooling, which includes multiple languages, religious studies, and herbology, excludes much more than it includes. Then, in 2003, Maren dies, and Aslaug discovers that she has an aunt and cousins nearby and begins living with them. She is simultaneously fascinated and confused by her discoveries of social interactions and how the world functions. Fast paced and suspenseful, Meldrum's novel deftly and subtly maintains tension by judiciously revealing key plot points. Aslaug narrates events from 2003 and 2004, which come back to haunt her in 2007, when she finds herself on trial for the murders of her aunt and cousin. Her story fills in gaps and masterfully manipulates perspective, ingeniously pointing out how everything can change depending on one's point of view. Chapters on the courtroom trial alternate with Aslaug's account, which leads up to the deaths. Deep examination of religion and science and how they intersect pervade the text in an exploratory and informative way. The inclusion of rape and poisoning lends darkness and weight to Aslaug's already intense experience. Filled with herbal imagery and nomenclature, the descriptions, both beautiful and surprising, paired with the expert control of pacing, make for a riveting and mind-opening experience.—Amy J. Chow, New York Public Library
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Aslaug lives in isolation; the flowers and plants that her mother, Maren, uses to make their lives possible are more real to her than the outside world. Then Maren dies, and Aslaug makes her way to the nearby Maine town, where she finds her aunt Sara and teenage cousins Susanne and Rune. Aslaug hopes they will have a clue to her father’s identity; she learns, as readers already have, that Maren proclaimed Aslaug a virgin birth. Aunt Sara, a charismatic preacher, wants none of this. But Susanne, enthralled with the writings of esoteric religionists and pagans, believes this is a possibility, while Rune is just enthralled with Aslaug herself. Then Aslaug finds herself pregnant, and divine intervention is once more a possibility. Plot summary does little justice to this haunting book, which is as much mysticism as it is story. Meldrum plunges deeply into the nature of reality. She uses language in a particularly arresting way, with the leaves and petals of the plants that are so much a part of Aslaug’s life shimmering over the pages. If all this wasn’t satisfaction enough, Meldrum, a litigator, mixes faith and science with a solid mystery, told in the transcripts of a trial in which Aslaug is the defendant. There is much to ponder in this enthralling achievement from a debut author. Grades 9-12. --Ilene Cooper

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375851763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375851766
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,729,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I finished reading MADAPPLE last night and, for the first time ever, I sat staring at the book in shock. For fifteen minutes. I was ready to laugh, to cry, and to scream in frustration. Never before have I read a book that left me feeling that way after finishing it. Sure, there have been books where I've laughed, cried, and been frustrated at different points as I read it (HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS comes to mind) -- but to experience them all at once at the end of a book? Never.

Once the shock wore off, I began wondering how I was ever going to write a review of this book. Because a book that can cause emotions like that definitely can NOT be summed up in one paragraph, no matter how long. I could say that MADAPPLE was about flowers and plants. I could also say that it's about a girl who's a prisoner in her own life. I could also say that it challenges the religion of Christianity. I could say all of those things and so many more, but none of them would be correct. Yes, MADAPPLE is about flowers and plants. It's also about being a prisoner in your own life and it's even about Christianity. But it's also about so much more than that. More than even my mind can comprehend.

But I must warn you - MADAPPLE is NOT for everyone

Told in alternating chapters of the present and of testimonies being held at Aslaug's trial, MADAPPLE challenges the reader. It informs the reader. I, myself, though not a strong Christian, know by now that most Christians are offended when their religion is challenged. MADAPPLE does that. But I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing, for it never states that Christianity is wrong, and every single character has their own opinion on it. Heck, one of them even runs a church.
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Format: Hardcover
It's hard to know where to start in the praise for this amazing story of Aslaug, a teenaged girl who, having been raised by a reclusive mother, finds herself--after her mother's death--in the unfamiliar world of her minister-aunt's church. Meldrum cuts back and forth between rapid-fire courtroom testimony of Aslaug's trail and beautifully lyrical sections detailing the events of Aslaug's life that land her in court. Each of the more lyrical chapters is titled with the name of a plant, and Meldrum's weaving of a rich wealth of information about each plant's medicinal qualities with a deep knowledge of religions of all sorts adds more to this book than I ever could have imagined--without ever slowing the pace of the story. I'm only left wishing there were a second of this author's books to pull off the shelf, and hoping there will be soon!
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Format: Hardcover
The theory that there are no original ideas, that everything has been done before, has been bandied around a lot in relation to mediocre pop music and, more relevant here perhaps, in terms of newly published books. Although I can point out my fair share of movie remakes and rip-off book plots, I generally hold with those who disagree and think that there is still a bit of originality out there. After finishing "Madapple" by Christina Meldrum (due out in May 2008 from Knopf) I think that's even more true.

While reading this novel, I tried to place it in relation to other stories I had read. It reminded me of "How I Live Now" (especially because of Daisy's relationship with Edmond in that novel). It also had a hint of the fantasy genre's penchant for stressing the power of naming and the tone of authors like Margaret Mahy. Most striking was the way that Meldrum controlled readers' perception of the narrative. The only other novel I have seen that exercises such restraint to such good effect is "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro. And yet, at the end of the day, "Madapple" wasn't like anything else I had read and these comparisons reveal very little about the actual story.

"Madapple" is Meldrum's first novel, written while she worked as a litigator. The story starts, as many do, at the beginning. Specifically, it opens twenty years before the core events of the story with a young woman named Maren--away from her Danish relatives, living alone in Maine, and pregnant. Without, Maren tells her older sister, ever having had a lover.

Such are the origins of Aslaug, Maren's daughter and the heroine of this novel.
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Format: Paperback
Wow. Just... Wow. This novel caught me off guard. I didn't expect to like it or get pulled into it. Once I started reading though, it was fantastic. Absolutely spectacular writing and I just couldn't put it down. It was fascinating and horrifying at the same time but in its core I think what got to me the most if just how human it is. the characters are so real you can feel their hearts beating. You want to cry with them and above all even though they are going through something that maybe most people shouldn't be able to understand, you could. It was a novel that showed a side of a situation that gave you a completely new level of understanding of the story. I also think that using the trial was brilliant. It made the opening for a deeper level of depth to the situation. You question who was right and who was wrong but the most beautiful part of the story is just that. You understand the characters enough to see the gray lines in between the white and black print. That in all reality we are all human and sometimes mistakes just stack up to make unforgettable situations but that those situations, while they may tear you apart, if you can put yourself back together again, have the potential to make you so much stronger. Beautiful enough to get a 6 star if it were possible and that is something I have never felt before. This book goes above and beyond beautiful. It is truly a work of art.

Emma Michaels

P.S.- For mothers I would suggest you consider this novel only for 15 or 16 and older. It does have mature content that many of the younger audiences would not be able to properly understand or might not be taken well. You may want to read the novel on your own before giving it to a teenager.
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