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Ursula, Under Paperback – June 28, 2005
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"It’s a divine view of a family tree... Ride along to the end of this merry, generous book." —Time Out New York
"Hill’s stories lure-the characters are vital, clever, detailed, appealing; I wolfed the book down like a bowl of cookie dough." —The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Ursula, Under never ceases to surprise and compel. What a grand and daring book." —Brady Udall, author of The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
Top Customer Reviews
When 2 1/2-year-old Ursula falls into an old mine shaft in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, media and curiosity seekers swarm the scene, and not one alone asks about the mixed race child born of poor parents - is she worth saving? How much investment and effort is one such child worth?
Ingrid Hill, in this debut novel, explores the question of one life's value by going back into history, traveling the long and complex limbs of a family tree, to an ancestry of two thousand years and a genealogy that contains within it royalty and peasants, slaves and alchemists, immigrants and miners. Little Ursula's ethnic roots wind through China, Sweden, Finland, Poland, traveling over land and oceans, passing through the courts of royalty with as much intrigue as through the tents and barracks of immigrants, until the two branches of her parents' families, the Wongs and the Makis, finally meet to create this child. In one tiny child: the spans of millenia and the bloodlines of countless generations. Such is the value of one human life, that it contains the lives of many, and these many are intertwined by all who have ever lived, all across the globe, a concentration of all humanity and all the characteristics and traits, good and evil, therein. Every life, we soon see, is a vessel holding all that has been and all that will be.Read more ›
And leading to one special life - that of a little girl who falls into an abandoned mine shaft. Stories of Ursula Wong's Chinese and Finnish ancestors are interwoven with nail-biting accounts of the gathering of rescue workers, TV crews, and gawkers.
Hill's consistent use of the present tense gives her stories a sense of forward movement - often urgent movement. Her clever interweaving and her reminders to the reader tie together times past and present, as well as far-apart places: China, Finland, Michigan.
Reading the first chapter, I fell in love with 2 1/2-year-old Ursula and her parents - Justin Wong, a Chinese-American gutter repairman and musician, and his Finnish-American wife, Annie Maki, a librarian. Then in Chapter Two, the author takes us back to ancient China, and the (over-long) story of a Chinese alchemist. Here the author's symphonic repetition of themes begins. Ursula has followed a deer into the woods; Qin Lao wonders at the deer that has somehow entered his walled garden. She falls into an abandoned copper mine; he works with cinnabar (the source of quicksilver) from a nearby mine.
In later chapters we meet other ancestors in the "cloud of witnesses" cheering on Ursula's rescuers: Deaf-mutes, like Qin Lao's servant Zhou(who just might be the true ancestor). Another foundling left, like Qin Lao, in a basket at a rich man's door. A brilliant Chinese princess with useless legs, whose Jesuit tutor helps her conceive the child she wants. Finnish immigrants working the iron and copper mines of Upper Michigan.Read more ›
Annie and Justin Wong are on a rare outing with their daughter in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Annie, a librarian, has developed an interest in her ancestors and they are exploring the area where her Finnish great-grandfather lived before his death in a 1926 mine explosion. They stop for a picnic and spot a deer in the trees. Ursula goes after it. It's a charmed moment: a lovely June day, a delighted child, happy, relaxed parents.
"She gives them a sign in mime: Watch me. Ursula's every gesture seems meant for the comedic stage. She is a natural. She tiptoes toward the treeline. The deer disappears deeper into the forest, as silent as breath. Ursula puts on a burst of speed, silent herself, looking back at Justin and Annie, steps into the trees, and disappears from sight. The only sound is an astonished tiny intake of breath from Ursula as she goes down, like a penny into the slot of a bank, disappeared, gone."
As Justin races off to find help and Annie cannot yet take in what we already know - that Ursula has fallen down an unmapped ventilation shaft - the narrative veers, following Annie's anguished thought: "So many generations, back into history and then prehistory, all concentrated into this one little girl."
At first Hill drops back only a generation. We meet Justin's warm-hearted mother, Mindy Ji, who never stopped loving Joe Cimmer, the musician who left them both when Justin was little older than Ursula.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Read this book when it first came out , & now have a copy . Being born & raised in the U.P. of Michigan & of Finnish ancestry made * Ursula Under* especially interesting . Read morePublished 6 months ago by patricia rosen
A toddler, the daughter of a Chinese father and a Finnish mother, is trapped in an old mine shaft. As her frantic parents wait and the rescue party mobilizes, a woman watching the... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Bibiana
I am the author, and I bought this to give to a friend, so this would hardly be an objective assessment. Still, I loved it.Published 9 months ago by Emily's Buddy
I read URSULA, UNDER some years ago, & I have repurchased it (I usually give my books away) to read it again. It was that good.Published 10 months ago by Elizabeth Bird
This is a wonderfully constructed and absorbing novel about a little girl who falls down an abandoned mine shaft. Read morePublished on June 23, 2014 by Liz
I really enjoyed this book and am surprised that it is not more widely known. The book made me realize how we all have an unknown ancestral history which is critical to anyone's... Read morePublished on July 23, 2013 by L. Knits
I read this book back when it first came out, and although I have read many novels since then, this remains one of my favorites. Read morePublished on November 25, 2012 by Meghan
Someone else recommended this book to the club. I do not know why. Rarely do I abandon a book before I finish reading. I did this one.Published on September 30, 2012 by Prosilio
Reading that Audrey Niffenegger thought this book "absorbing" was a major reason for starting to read this book. Unfortunately, it was not enough reason to finish it. Read morePublished on November 4, 2010 by Ein Kunde