Are you looking at this cover right now, thinking, “Ooohhh… creepy…”? Perhaps by the end of this review, you’ll also be thinking, “Gimmee.”
There are so many things I could say about Christina Meldrum’s debut novel, Madapple. It’s certainly eerie, thought-provoking, gorgeously written, unsettling, instructive, weird… It’s getting lots of attention and rave reviews from all corners of the kidlit and publishing world. It is one of the most unusual books I’ve read this year, and I’m not sure it’s for everyone. All this said, I urge you to read it.
Aslaug is a teenager who was raised by her eccentric mother in a remote rural area of Maine. Her mother taught Aslaug the healing – and harmful – properties of plants and flowers, but never revealed the one secret that Aslaug was desperate to know: her father’s identity. After her mother dies, Aslaug takes refuge with her aunt and cousins who live at the nearby Charisma Church, where her aunt is the Pastor. Instead of this becoming an opportunity for healing and a new life, living at the church only brings Aslaug more questions, more pain and frightening experiences. Family, religion, botany, sickness and the law, all swirl around in this strange, tense tale of loss and self-discovery.
That’s really about all I can say, without spoilers. Madapple reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Adoration of Jenna Fox, as Aslaug (like Offred and Jenna) is held for so much of the story in the power of someone else. Like Jenna, Aslaug does not understand her own past, has many questions and wonders what is real about her life and what she has only imagined or created. Over and over again as I read Madapple, I was thinking about stories and family histories, and how there is always more than one point of view, another side that someone else thinks is the truth. Perhaps in families there is no real true version of events. Everyone has their own agenda, and their own highly emotional motivation for seeing things the way they do. You’ll find Aslaug intriguing and naive and sympathetic at the same time as you wonder about whether she’s innocent or guilty, insane or touched by God.
Here’s some of what other people are saying about this hot title:
Madapple is published by Knopf.