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The Crooked Branch

by Jeanine Cummins

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896268,436 (4.24)3
Majella, exhausted after the birth of her daughter, returns to her childhood home in Queens and finds the diary of her ancestor Ginny, a diary that contains information about a murder in her family.

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After the birth of her daughter, Emma, first-time mother Majella finds herself feeling extremely strange - almost like she has somehow become separated or disconnected from herself and her family. The usually resilient and self-deprecating young woman suddenly feels isolated and exhausted - feelings which she slowly comes to realize reach far beyond simply being overwhelmed by her recent introduction to new motherhood. Trying to better understand her extraordinary feelings of 'differential otherness', Majella understands that no matter how much they may love her, her family just can't help her in this particular situation; so she seeks out professional help.

Late one night, while investigating the source of a strange sound up in her attic, Majella discovers the diary of her maternal ancestor - Ginny Doyle. While it is encouraging for Majella to find Ginny's diary - and to again feel the spark of a connection toward this tough and determined woman, Majella is nevertheless shocked to read a story of murder in her family history. Disturbed to think that she may be genetically predisposed to acts of violence herself, Majella sets out to explore Ginny's past.

With the ravages of the famine upon her, a terrified and distraught Ginny Doyle fled from Ireland to America. Although she was eventually able to acquire passage for herself and her children, not all of Ginny's family were able to escape and to start over fresh in their lives. So, what actually happened during those harrowing years, and just why does Ginny continue to call herself a killer?

Despite the centuries that separate them, Majella is heartened to learn that her ancestor Ginny was in so many ways a woman just like herself - just a mother struggling to find a way to raise and protect her young children. Ginny's battles may have been more fundamental than Majella's - as she struggled to keep her young family alive during the time of Ireland's Great Hunger - yet Majella can't deny the strong connection that she still feels towards Ginny. However, does the fierce tenderness that Majella begins to feel towards her newborn daughter outweigh everything else - or is she actually genetically fated to be a bad mother? Determined to understand the truth of her heritage as well as her own identity, Majella seeks to learn more about Ginny Doyle's personal history - and discovers surprising new truths about her family and, ultimately, about herself.

I must say that I absolutely loved this book. In my opinion, it was just a wonderful book; beautifully written and seamlessly woven together. Both Ginny's and Majella's stories were equally compelling for me to read, despite the centuries that separated both women. I'm definitely putting Ms. Cummins' name at the top of my wishlist, and I would certainly give this book an A+! ( )
  moonshineandrosefire | Dec 20, 2016 |
The Crooked Branch spans the generations of the Doyle family through telling the story of Ginny in the 1800s in famine ravaged Ireland and the story of Majella in the USA in present times. The story is wonderfully crafted story. The author knows just how to bring the reader right in to the story. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  CandyH | Feb 12, 2014 |
The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins is a dual narrative novel with heroines in present day Queens, N.Y., and County of Mayo, Ireland, during the potato famine when a blight hit all of the crops and the fever was rampant. Normally, readers either connect with the present day or the historical narrative in books like this, but the eventual entanglement of these narratives reinforces the strength, weaknesses, fears, and courage mothers must face when they are responsible for children. Majella is a new mother who had certain expectations about motherhood, which are blown to bits in her first emotional months after Emma is born, while Ginny is an Irish potato farmer whose husband ventures to America in the hope that he will send money home to keep his family from being evicted after the blight destroys their crops.

Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2013/08/the-crooked-branch-by-jeanine-cummins.html ( )
  sagustocox | Aug 23, 2013 |
The Crooked Branch is an intertwining story of a modern day young mother trying to deal with 1st time motherhood, giving up her job in NYC, moving to the suburbs (so to speak) mixed in with a little postpartum depression, C section recovery, lonliness and self pity (Majella) ---& the 1846 Potato Blight & Famine in Ireland and how a young woman, wife & mother of 4 children makes life decisions for survival from hunger & death that is surrounding her family. (Ginny Doyle).

These 2 woman connect in the story when Majella finds a diary that falls from the hem of a dress in an old trunk while cleaning the family attic. The diary is that of a great, great grandmother and a diary entry of murder. Instantly Majella is haunted that her inadequate feelings as a new mother to Emma, and her own inadequate feelings as a daughter to her own mother are related to the crazy gene that must be passed down by this murderess grandmother.

******When I read a book, I like to make a few notes to my self after I get into it - so that I can see if I feel the same way at the end of the book as I did at the mid point of where I felt I had read enough to make a comment early on ---- here is my beginning thoughts: "I am only on page 94 - but at this point - I really am sick and tired of the whining of Majella - I think she is so self absorbed that she probably should never have taken on motherhood - she is just too selfish and immature I think I hate her - I am sure she has some form of Postpartum Depression - but I don't care - I am sick of her whining. as far as the other characters--- so far really like Ginny and Raymond & can't wait to find out about what is causing the crunching noise. " ******

After finishing the book - I will say that it was difficult to push pass the sections of Majella and her self pity chapters to get back to the interesting parts of the book - Ginny Doyle's struggle for survival and the questionable decisions that she was making to put food on the table for her children ---The author did a wonderful job of blending these stories and in the end, I felt a sense of closure and compassion for all of the mothers in this novel. It was a good read and I would highly recommend it! ( )
  booklovers2 | Aug 4, 2013 |
Could it be true? Could Majella have inherited the "crazy" gene from her mother's ancestors?

From present-day New York and then back to Ireland in the 1800's, THE CROOKED BRANCH, covers a family's history and tells of a mother's love as well as the heartaches it brings. Majella, the New York mother, and Ginny, the Irish mother, are distant relatives but share the same things every mother wants for her children and also all of the things a mother fears about motherhood and raising a family. Majella is experiencing a fear of having a family link of craziness after she read of a murder committed by her mother's great-grandmother, Ginny, in a diary she found hidden inside the hem of a dress in the attic of her childhood home.

THE CROOKED BRANCH takes the reader through the potato famine in Ireland to present-day New York. The book allows you to spend a day with Majella in New York and then back to a day in Ginny's life during the potato famine in Ireland. You will follow Majella as she struggles with being a stay-at-home mom dealing with postpartum depression. Both women have their families uppermost in their minds with Majella also struggling with her relationship with her own mother. You will follow Ginny as her family struggles to stay alive because there is no food in Ireland and where people are dying on a daily basis. You will follow Ginny as she has to bear the pain of leaving her four young children alone to find work as a chambermaid in an estate that won't allow her to go home at night and whose mistress becomes involved in Ginny's family life.

The book is fast paced and has detailed descriptions of the characters, the scenes, and the character's feelings. I enjoy books that go back and forth in time and especially ones that tell of written accounts from ancestors...especially diaries and also in this case a recording by Ginny's son telling of the events in Ireland and their passage to New York. I was quickly pulled into this moving historical fiction book through Ginny's story.

Ginny's story was much more appealing than Majella's perhaps because of the historical aspect, while Majella tugged more at the heartstrings of modern-day mothers who have to deal with leaving the work force and becoming an isolated, stay-at-home mom. The tale was a bit humdrum through Majella's story, but quite fascinating during Ginny's.

My rating is 4/5.

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review. ( )
  SilversReviews | Mar 3, 2013 |
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For my mama
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It all happened in one night.
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Majella, exhausted after the birth of her daughter, returns to her childhood home in Queens and finds the diary of her ancestor Ginny, a diary that contains information about a murder in her family.

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