The Violets of March by Sarah Jio – Book Review

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
Published by Plum, an imprint of Penguin

When Emily’s marriage falls apart, she doesn’t cry, and she doesn’t rage. In fact, her best friend is a bit worried about the degree to which she is repressing her feelings and Emily quite clearly isn’t actually dealing with her divorce. As a novelist – and a stalled one at that – there is no 9 to 5 job where Emily must clock in, so she finally decides to visit her Great Aunt Bee on Bainbridge Island in Washington for a change of scenery. While there, she runs into an old boyfriend from her youth summering on the island, as well as a slightly mysterious yet handsome neighbor. Even more compelling to Emily than the men she meets, though, is the red journal she finds in the room she is staying in. Did Aunt Bee try her hand at fiction, or is this really the diary of a woman named Esther? And, if so, what happened to her, and what does any of this have to do with the unhealed schism between Aunt Bee and Emily’s mother?

The Violets of March was simply a lovely book. Jio clearly loves her characters dearly, and her fondness for them makes them irresistible to the reader. This may sound like a setup with the potential to be saccharine, but Jio has a great sense of balance and narrative that prevents her story from turning campy or emotionally manipulative, while allowing it to be genuinely moving. Both Emily’s modern story and the mystery of the diary were well drawn, and Jio did a masterful job weaving them together in a way that detracted from neither story.

This was a beautiful and well-written story of redemption, hope, and starting over. I can’t wait to see what Jio has for us next. Highly recommended.

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