The secrets of the past meet the shocks of the present.
Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language—but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be.
When Aslaug’s mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mother’s death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaug’s birth. About what she should do next.
About whether divine miracles have truly happened. And whether, when all other explanations are impossible, they might still happen this very day.
Grade: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++ // Dude, like, don't even waste time reading reviews -- buy it NOW!!
(Thanks to Christina for the book!)
"They've charged me with what they call abuse of corpse. To clean Mother, bury her, bless her, was to abuse her, they tell me. And now they are cutting her up." (Page 69)
[Steph says: This isn't so much a memorable quote as it is an example of the dark humor present in the story, if you look hard enough.]
"(...) It seems to me now freedom is its own sort of internment." (Page 74)
"Mother rarely spoke to me of such things, but it seemed the elderberry wine had a magic about it that freed Mother's tongue. I always loved these stories. They intimated another world: a world of spirit and magic and the miraculous where rationality gave, not to irrationality but to possibility." (Page 85)
"Moher was the speed of light. Or dark matter, or gravity. "Gravity is powerless against the tug of even a tiny magnet," Mother would say. "And yet if gravity were stronger, our universe would collapse into itself. Sometimes there's strange power in frailty." (Page 92)
""So you don'think Mother was crazy?"
"Crazy? No. Maren was the sanest thing around. But in the world of the insane, it's the sane who seem insane."" (Page 213)
Madapple isn’t for everyone. Beyond the gripping mystery setup, there’s also a lot of references to religious texts, botany, languages, and mythology, and unless the reader is interested in those topics, the whole book may go right over their heads. Moreover, there are certain themes herein some consider wrong, amoral, sinful. It’s not a light read, nor should it be treated as such.
Personally, everything in the above paragraph makes the book even more appealing to me.
The book begins with a prologue of sorts set in 1987 where it’s determined a woman, Maren Hellig, is pregnant, though she has no recollection of ever being with a man. Next is a courtroom scene set in 2007, in which the defendant, Aslaug Datter (daughter in Danish), is being tried for the deaths of her mother, aunt and cousin. Next we go back to 2003, to Aslaug and Maren picking some plants (jimsonweed, among others, which is also known as madapple) from the woods near their isolated home. The book is told in alternating chapters, between the past and perceived present, and it’s not until the very last page is flipped the reader can conclude the magnitude of this unnerving tale.
Pushing the insanely genius plot aside, the next thing that struck me speechless about this novel is Meldrum’s prose. She keeps the reader on the edge, and yet she controls your entire spectrum of emotions as you read, and also of how much you perceived with each scene. The book is gripping not because of the plot, but because the reader has to read all the way through to figure said plot out. The characters, while for the most part unlikable, are magnetic, attracting your interest whether you want to read about them or not. Their development is unusual, yet effective. It is truly, immensely hard to believe this is Christina Meldrum’s first novel, judging by the masterful way in which she handles this novel’s writing, pace, plot, characters, voice—in short, this novel’s being.
Madapple is by far one of the most unorthodox YA books I’ve read to date. It forces all I’ve read out of the water. It’s original. It takes a whole different approach to young adult fiction. It’s thought-provoking. It may disgust some people. It may appal others. Hell, it may even bore some. But to tell you the truth, very rarely has a book struck me the way this one did.
Where the young adult genre has dimmed in content over the recent years, Madapple sparkles brilliantly for readers looking to be challenged. Similar to the hunger with which the reader moves through Madapple, is the anticipation they will feel for Christina Meldrum’s next offering.
I could not recommend this book more.