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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Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
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The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry – Book Review

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Zee makes her living as a psychiatrist in Boston, but she has her own demons to deal with. When Zee was young, her bipolar mother committed suicide and Zee was the one who found her. When one of Zee’s patients, Lily Braedon, who reminded Zee so much of her own mother, jumps off of a bridge after being involved in an abusive affair, Zee is determined to get to the bottom of what happened. To complicate things, Zee’s father Finch is deteriorating rapidly. Finch has Parkinson’s, but he is starting to lapse into Alzheimer’s. After Finch kicks out his longterm partner Melville, Zee is left as Finch’s sole caregiver at the same time she is trying to discover what happened to Lily and reconcile her own past.

I really enjoyed Barry’s debut work, “The Lace Reader.” It was one of the first books I got really excited about when I started blogging. “The Map of True Places,” like “The Lace Reader” is set in Salem and had the same atmosphere. I don’t think that “The Map of True Places” had the same immediacy and sense of mystery that “The Lace Reader” had, however, I also think it was a more complex book in many ways. I loved the literary connection with Finch’s past as a literature professor and Zee’s mother’s obsession with fables.

Although somewhat less dramatic than “The Lace Reader,” I thought that “The Map of True Places” was a lovely book and I loved the story of Zee’s discovery of herself and her family’s history. Recommended.

Available May 4, 2010

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
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Amazon
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This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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