Reviewed by L.D.Y.
Hardcover, 404 pages, 2008
Reason for Reading: I like to check out the occasional ‘aimed at teens but also for adults’ type of novel.
Synopsis: 16-year-old Aslaug’s mother has mysteriously passed away and she finds herself living between two worlds: the harsh yet ethereal place of her mother and her childhood; and the concrete sureness of the place she escapes to after her mother’s death. Sheltered but worldly, naive but full of secrets – Aslaug is struggling between contradictions while trying to discover both where she came from and where she is going. All of it may be in jeopardy, however – she’s been charged with a double murder, and the flashes between what happened and the courtroom are as much about Aslaug discovering what happened as the reader uncovering the tangle of mysteries…
Why you should read this book: Instead of making Madapple a simple tale of a teen finding herself, Meldrum has thrown in the possibilities of murders and wrapped it in a mélange of explosive family secrets that’s sure to capture the reader right from the start. Aslaug is a character that’s easy to like, though her incredibly sheltered background and lack of social etiquette make it hard to predict what she’ll do or what she’s thinking, which really adds to the dramatic impact and the air of mystery. While the book may be targeted at teens, it’s not dumbed down in any way, which is refreshing (and good for adults who need something great to read). All of the juxtapositions (courtroom vs. nature, religion vs. spirituality, etc) really do a fantastic job of looking at all the choices we make about who we are as teenagers – and in the years beyond. An engrossing, thoughtful, yet dramatic novel you won’t want to miss.
Why you should avoid this book: Because this is such a mixed bag of worlds it might be hard to settle on an audience – but after reading a few chapters it’s easier to see how you’ll appreciate both a more ethereal and a more ‘real’ world, so don’t be afraid to take the plunge.
The women resemble schoolgirls with gangly limbs, ruddy cheeks, plaited flaxen hair; they walk holding hands. Yet the older of the two is pregnant; her unborn baby rides high and round. And the younger woman’s left foot scratches a path through the leaves. She seems comfortable with her limp, accustomed to it.
‘Okay, listen. I’ll go. I’ll come back tomorrow. I’m not supposed to do this, but it’s probably better for you to stay here, given the options. I can’t really see how letting you sleep at home tonight is going to hurt anything. Tomorrow we’ll find those relatives.’ She walks to the door. ‘But let’s just keep this between us, okay?’ She opens the door. ‘Sleep in tomorrow morning. I’ll come back around eleven or so, with lunch.’
‘Sure,’ I say.
She steps out, turns. ‘You’ll be all right?’
‘Don’t let anyone in, okay?’
‘And don’t go anywhere.’
‘I won’t,’ I lie.
‘But Maren, she was just like Fader,’ the preacher says. ‘She scoffed at Christianity, refused to go to church almost as soon as she could talk, wanted to run around the forest with Fader collecting specimens on the Sabbath. You can’t imagine how grateful Fader was to have Maren – to have a child who not only didn’t judge him but who loved what he loved. He doted on her, took her everywhere, taught her everything he knew. And Maren thrived, on the surface, but her soul was rotting, and this was awful for Moder. She and Fader started fighting about Maren. Then Moder became ill. She just seemed to wither away. And she died, in midsummer, the year Maren was fifteen.’
Also recommended: White Oleander by Janet Fitch; The Passion of Mary Magdalen by Elizabeth Cunningham; Magdalen Rising by Elizabeth Cunningham.
Also by this author: Madapple is Meldrum’s first novel.
Author’s website: christinameldrum.com
Fun tidbit: Meldrum started writing Madapple while working as a litigator in San Francisco.
Would I read more by this author? Whether future books are aimed at teens or adults, I’ll read them either way.
© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2008