Wednesday, April 08, 2009
First, the cover. I love this cover. I think it is a perfect representation of Aslaug (the main character), and the events at the beginning of the book, and the whole mood of the book. It's just perfect, in a creepy kind of way.
Second, the book. I loved it, too. It was so much more than I expected. In fact, the whole second half of the book was a big surprise, in a "I really wasn't expecting that" kind of way.
Third, the story:
Aslaug is a young girl raised in almost near isolation by her mother, Maren. Maren has taught her daughter about botany and languages, but has also severely limited her exposure to society and most other areas of learning. They live on the outskirts of a town in Maine, in a cabin with no electricity. Aslaug dreams of escape, but is also devoted to her emotionally abusive mother. When her mother dies, Aslaug is forced to interact with society and find her way in a world she knows almost nothing about.
There is way more to the story than that. But talking about it would ruin the story, although the secrets are divulged through the book, as the story is told alternately from Aslaug's point of view, and the testimony of witnesses at a trial. There is no grand revelation at the end, but the book takes some unexpected twists, and delves into the realms of religion, and family, and reality.
Although marketed as a book for young adults, I think this book is incredibly sophisticated. In fact, I think it would make for an excellent book club discussion, since the familial relationships are just whacked. It also includes some pretty interesting information on religion...ancient religions, ancient Christianity and modern Christianity, as well as ideas around virgin births. Plus, there are a lot of fascinating botanical facts (and wow...there are three words I never expected to string together). For example, the title, Madapple, is another name for the poisonous plant and hallucinogen jimsonweed, which plays a key role in the book.
I know this book made the rounds last year, but if you missed it and were at all interested in reading it, I'd really encourage you to give it a chance. I'd offer to send you my copy, but I don't think my library would appreciate it.