Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Review of MADAPPLE by Christina Meldrum
This week, I'm reviewing a novel called MADAPPLE by Christina Meldrum.
(Disclosure--Ms. Meldrum is a fellow author at Andrea Brown Literary Agency; however, I never met or talked to her before she requested a review from the Fictionistas. Okay, now that that's out of the way, on to the review!)
Aslaug is a teenager raised in near isolation with her eccentric mother. The windows of their home are covered with thick curtains to keep neighbors out--or perhaps to keep Aslaug and her mother trapped within. Their only forays out into the world are to forage for plants, during which time Aslaug's mother instructs her on science, botany, and language. But Aslaug has never seen her face in a mirror, has never been taught how to relate to other people, so she's uncomfortable within her skin as she blossoms into a young woman.
Then Aslaug's mother dies suddenly, and Aslaug's life is turned upside down. She's forced to think for herself--and to face the knowledge that her mother may have been mentally unstable. Eager to find her mother's family, to perhaps get answers about her unknown father, Aslaug flees her home. She finds her aunt and cousins in a nearby town, but all is not as she expected. Her relatives, who maintain a small charismatic church, hold the key to Aslaug understanding her mother and her own self. But the deeper Aslaug digs into the past, the more questions she reveals, and the more precarious her own situation gets.
For she must discover whether religious miracles have actually happened or not--both to her mother and to herself. And when Aslaug is arrested and accused of double murder, only uncovering the truth about her past, and present, can shed light on this case and determine Aslaug's fate.
It was difficult to write the above summary without giving away spoilers. I have to say, I can't possibly do this novel justice in just a few paragraphs. Ms. Meldrum's story is dense, packed with vivid emotion, characterization, and shocking plot elements. I was hooked.
A quick note: this book is definitely for older teens and adults--the thematic subject matter and language (though infrequent) may not be suitable for anyone younger.
Ms. Meldrum's writing is dense, but as the story goes along, you come to see that the prose effectively reflects Aslaug's mind, a brilliant girl raised by a brilliant, unstable mother. A girl who doesn't know how to connect with people, only with science, with ideas. For Aslaug views life through the lens of botany, language, science--the influence of her mother.
Though I went into this story not knowing anything about botany, Ms. Meldrum's reliance upon plants was vital to the storyline; fortunately, she was careful to make sure the reader understood what the plants were used for and how they played into the plot.
The narrative structure itself is clever, as well. The chapters alternate between illuminating the past in Aslaug's perspective, and the court proceedings of the double murder trial in the present time. It was very effective--as the trial progressed, Aslaug's backstory revealed pieces of the puzzle, answering questions for the readers even as it raised more.
After I finished the book, it haunted me, lingered with me for days. To me, that's the sign of a definite keeper. I highly recommend MADAPPLE.
Well done, Ms. Meldrum. I'm eagerly looking forward to your next novel.