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Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum
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Amaryllis in Blueberry

by Christina Meldrum

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16023114,845 (3.54)19
Meet the Slepys: Dick, the stern doctor, the naïve husband, a man devoted to both facts and faith; Seena, the storyteller, the restless wife, a mother of four, a lover of myth. And their children, the Marys: Mary Grace, the devastating beauty; Mary Tessa, the insistent inquisitor; Mary Catherine, the saintly, lost soul; and finally, Amaryllis, Seena's unspoken favorite, born with the mystifying ability to sense the future, touch the past, and distinguish the truth tellers from the most convincing liar of all. When Dick insists his family move from Michigan to the unfamiliar world of Africa for missionary work, he can't possibly foresee how this new land and its people will entrance and change his daughters - and himself - forever.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
*plenty of spoilers ahead*

This book made me glad that we don't have to write book reports as adults. I just didn't understand the ending, I felt like there was going to be a moral, a take away from reading the book and I had missed it. Maybe there wasn't one, but if there was then I'm afraid it went over my head.

Seena and Dick have four daughters. One day, their youngest daughter realizes that Dick is not her biological father. Dick realizes it then too.
He's so angry with Seena that he decides the best thing to do is to go to Africa and help the less fortunate.

So, they all head to Africa. They're taking some major drama with them and they find more in Africa.
One daughter is pregnant, one is starving and cutting herself, and one is able to sense things that others cannot.

It's the 1970's and life in Africa is really rough. Everyone gets sick. Everything gets worse.

The book starts with a murder trial, so we know early on that Dick dies but we don't know how or why until the end.

This book was really really heavy. There was a lot of drama. It was very well written but sometimes it was hard to like the characters. Every one of them except Yllis was extremely selfish. Seena was really not a great mom. Seena and Dick seemed to care more about their issues than their kids' problems. And Seena was so deeply punished for her affair that I thought they just might have one of her daughters die so that she'd have that to feel guilty for too.

The last chapter was the confusing part for me. It was in the perspective of the man Seena had the affair with and it didn't provide closure. If anything, it was frustrating. ( )
  Mishale1 | Dec 29, 2018 |
Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum is set in Michigan and West Africa during the summer and fall of 1976. It is a highly atmospheric novel that follows the highly dysfunctional Slepy family: parents Dick and Seena and their four daughters, the Marys - Mary Grace, Mary Catherine, and Mary Tessa - and Amaryllis, known as Yllis. After their summer in Michigan, Dick decides to take his family to Africa where he will serve as a medical missionary.

The first chapter reveals the end of the novel - when Seena is on trial for Dick's murder in West Africa. Then the narrative goes back to the summer and intertwines scenes from the past and present. The novel is told from the viewpoints of all the Slepys, their elderly neighbor Clara, and a single, final chapter from the viewpoint of the priest, Father Heimdall. Although each character has a unique voice, Meldrum makes an interesting stylistic choice and has everyone but Yllis tell their stories in the present tense, even when they look back on past events. Yllis tells her story in past tense.

In Amaryllis in Blueberry truth and reality are questioned. Obsessions, imagination, storytelling, and cross cultural myth-making (Greek mythology, African mythology, and Catholic doctrine) are explored. Additionally, we learn that Yllis has synesthesia; she is an emotional synesthete so she sees and feels all the emotions of everyone around her. The Slepy's bring a myriad of emotions and problems with them to Africa where Dick hopes they will find redemption but instead everything escalates out of anyone's control. All of the characters are flawed and it is these flaws that form a basis for their problems. There is also a feeling of distant reserve, a separateness, from all the characters in the novel.

Although it shares some similarities with Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, which apparently turned some readers off, I felt there were enough differences to separate the two novels. In Amaryllis in Blueberry creditability was a little stretched when the Slepy's were in Africa so quickly after Dick's decision and their family is so radically affected immediately upon arrival. Although I accepted it, I will also admit to liking the second half of the novel a bit less than the first. Additionally, since it is set in 1976, I could certainly pick up any cultural references to the time.

Meldrum is a very talented writer and I imagine we can look forward to more well crafted novels with intricately developed characters from her in the future.
Very Highly Recommended; http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
??1/2 rounded up to ???

THE END West Africa: Dick is dead. Seena knows this, of course: her husband is dead.So begins Amaryllis in Blueberry. Dick, Seena, Mary Grace, Mary Catherine, Mary Tessa and Amaryllis (Yllis) Slepy, along with Clara, tell the story of the Slepy family in 1976. Yllis, a synesthete for emotions, is the youngest and looks nothing like her blonde sisters. When she and one of the Marys come across a dead snake, it’s head cut off and it’s body splayed open on display, they meet a native American man and it is at that moment that Yllis knows for certain that Dick is not her dad, but that someone else is. Her mention of this motivates Dick to make a change, and he takes his priest’s advice and moves his family to West Africa where he, a pathologist who has never practised clinical medicine, plans to practise as a medical missionary. The whole family goes, including a now pregnant Grace and now anorexic Catherine.

Where and when Clara comes into the tale along with other characters both in Michigan and in West Africa is something that is woven in between the after and the before parts of the tale. I thought I would like this book better than I did, and others may like it a great deal more, because it wasn’t quite what I’d expected nor is it necessarily my kind of book. But also because while each of the viewpoints gives a different angle and viewpoint, I really didn’t find that all the voices were particularly distinct from one another. Nevertheless, the tale unfolds in ways that are at once not totally expected but also not in a way that grossly misrepresents what has been written before.
( )
  Karin7 | Jan 20, 2016 |
Just couldn't get through the first few pages. Just weird and nothing caught my attention. Returning to the library ( )
  nancynova | Mar 18, 2014 |
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."

Seena, on the other hand, is complex and ephemeral, like the angel of death herself, but she's equally out of touch with reality, and so even though Meldrum does fabulously at portraying her mother's perspective, I didn't know whether to have compassion or resentment for her. Seena's actions are the pivot point of the entire novel, and their repercussions will take away breaths, taint souls, smother goodness, stain lives, and stalk her forever; this in and of itself was fascinating to read, fascinating discover how small acts of selfishness and of passion could unravel and destroy what's left of everything.

Stylistically Amaryllis in Blueberry is profuse in description, but still frustratingly vague. While I liked the richness, I found Meldrum's prose too redundant and syrupy at times.

However, in terms of message and delivery, I was awed by the convoluted, conscious way in which the painful truths of the human heart are presented in the backdrop of Africa. The last few chapters will especially consume—and not to mention, confuse—you, so even thought it starts off sluggishly, I definitely recommend reading it until the very end.

Pros: Fantastic biblical allusions and references to Greek mythology // Gorgeous prose // Vivid, memorable, and well-expressed characters // Poignant, tender message about humanity and society

Cons: Flowery language that isn't as penetrating as it would like to be; I had to reread some sentences several times to get their meanings // Far-fetched attempt at imitating The Poisonwood Bible

Love: "... Envy is not green. And rage isn't red hot, and the blues have nothing to do with blue. Envy is more dust-colored, a transparent sort of gray. It quivers, like heat rising. Rage itself is not any shade of red—it's not any color at all. It's a smell, a fried-up fish. Melancholy? The blues? Melancholy's more of a shimmer than any color. And it creeps: blues on the move."

Verdict:Christina Meldrum skillfully examines the exquisite human psyche by bringing to light the importance—and devastation—of deception, hidden meaning, falsified untruths, and verified dismissals; this is what makes Amaryllis in Blueberry thought-provoking, strangely beautiful, and absolutely stirring. While some of the prose was a bit too lavish, and the idea of an ordinary American family meeting its ruin upon being caught up in Africa, unoriginal (Barbara Kingsolver ripoff, hello), in its essence, this book is a rare and startling glimpse at a tragedy turned extraordinary, brimming with perceptive truth and soul.

Rating: 8 out of 10 hearts (4 stars): An engaging read; highly recommended.

Source: Complimentary copy provided by LibraryThing Member Reviews in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!). ( )
  stephanieloves | May 28, 2013 |
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