Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Book: Madapple (and chat with the author!)

So how often do you get to meet with the author after you've just finished a fascinating book, and actually ask her "What about this? And what about that? And what did that mean?!?"

Last night my book club met, and we reviewed Madapple by local author Christina Meldrum. She was there for the first part of our meeting, which was quite a treat.

The book is a little difficult to summarize because it is multilayered and quite complex. It's been marketed as a YA novel, but the author (and my club) feel that it could easily have been an adult novel. Good writing and a dark topic (or several dark topics) make it a mature YA novel in any case.

Aslaug, fifteen and extremely sheltered, is set free into the heretofore unknown world-at-large when her mother (a difficult and very ill woman) dies, leaving her to the social-services wolves. Determined to find any family which may exist, she sets out to town, carrying a few clothes and a mysterious suitcase full of money. As luck would have it, she finds an aunt and cousins, whom she previously did not know existed.

From the skillet to the fire, she is quickly absorbed into a new world of Pentecostal religion and deep family secrets -- some of which are hers. And the secrets get deeper and darker and more dangerous the longer she stays with her newly discovered family. Murder? Incest? Virgin births? It's all there, and completely fascinating.

What is also so fascinating about this book is the way it combines comparative religions, medicinal/herbal plant lore, family secrets and some fantastic courtroom drama. How do you find your way when what you know of the world has been limited to (obscure, censored) books? How can you know what the truth is, when everything you knew is now thrown into question? When your mother -- your only teacher for 15 years -- has clearly left out some pretty important points?

We asked the author about several things which we were unsure about: Aslaug's father, the mystery of the mirrors, those courtroom scenes. While I don't want to give away the answers since they are key to the drama of reading the book, what I will say is that she said it took her 10 years from start to finish to write this book, and that she loved the plant lore so much that she learned it herself just to keep it in the book. She used to be a lawyer, and so that's why the courtroom scenes feel so real and intense.

This is her first book and she has two more coming out in the next couple of years. She is a great writer and was so charming in person. I hope we get more local authors to come to our meetings -- really, what a treat to be able to quiz her as we discussed the book!

Anyway -- wonderful to read a book that I didn't know anything about, and it's by a local author, and it was great, and we got to meet the author! A complete win-win situation.


Tammie said...

This story sounds completely fascinating. i just looked it up online and wow, what an interesting mix of topics.

and how cool that you got to meet the author! we had a local author at our book club once (Jill Ciment-she wrote The Tattoo Artist-very good book.) and it was so interesting to hear her take on certain parts of the book. im always so intrigued by the process that leads a person to write about a specific subject, what inspired them, etc. its great when you get to hear it from the source.

Kate said...

Wow, that sounds like a really interesting book. How did you come across it?

Daphne said...

Tammie: I think you might like this book. Meeting the artist was great.

Kate: The author is a neighbor of one of my bookclub-mates. Thankfully it turned out that we LIKED the book (since she still has to be neighbors with her!)

Stefanie said...

Sounds like a good book and a fun evening. Very cool that she was at your book group meeting!

Daphne said...

Stef: it was fun! I want to meet more authors now!