Saturday, June 28, 2008

Madapple by Christina Meldrum

Aslaug has been raised by her mother in a house where there is no electricity, no running water, and the drapery has been nailed down to keep the windows continually closed. On the day her mother dies she rips down the drapes letting light into the house for the first time. It seemed to me this was a bit of a metaphor for Aslaug's life - her world opening and new beginnings shining in. Of course, if only it was that easy. It never is.

She discovers that although she's been raised in isolation, she actually has family living nearby. Her aunt, a pastor in a holy roller type church, as well as her two cousins. Aslaug is unfamiliar with social complexities, having never really spoken to anyone other than her mother (and Aslaug was spoken to more than she spoke). So she's unprepared for social games and is rather exploitable.

Meldrum has combined herbology, religion, and social mores into a really original story. It alternates between Aslaug's retelling of her story and the court trial where she is being tried for murder. Throughout, you're not sure who is telling the truth, who is sane, and who has lost touch with reality. Was her childhood as she says? Was her mother her savior or her jailer? Has she been part of a religious miracle, completely delusional, or taken advantage by the unscrupulous? You might think you have it figured out, but information is doled out very carefully and I think you'll find you have to keep reevaluating your position. Truthfully, I'm still sorting through my feelings on this one. The writing is very good, the setting is dark and you have a sense of doom almost from the first page, the characters are twisted and weak and often become more loathsome the more you learn of them. There are theories and motives and definitely madness. I felt compelled to keep reading. I literally couldn't stop.

I was fascinated with the plants and herbs that Aslaug and her mother gather to survive. One that figures highly in the story is Jimsonweed, or as some call it Madapple. So I had to look up to see if it really existed. It does. The author is either a botanist or did a heck of a lot of research for this book.

The book struck me as one of those YA books that might be enjoyed equally, if not more, by adults. I was reading through her Amazon blog and it turns out she thinks its for older teens and adults. Interesting.

No comments: