Friday, July 29, 2011

Literary Friday: Beneath a Marble Sky: A Love Story

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The Dixie Diva Book Club July Selection is Beneath a Marble Sky by Johns Shors.  This book is by far the best book we have read all year, and it is one of my all-time favorite book club selections.  This book has been out since 2004, so it is not new, but it is a fantastic read.  This book will definitely stay on my keeper shelf!

The book is historical fiction about the building of one of the Eight Wonders of the World: the Taj Mahal.  In seventeenth Hundustan, the Emperor Shah Jahan is mourning the death of his third and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz, or Taj, died during a breech delivery.  The emperor commissioned the building of the Taj Mahal as a monument to the love he and his wife shared.  The empire would spare no expense in its construction.  Shah and Taj's is not the love story depicted in the book, however.  The actual love story surrounds Shah and Taj's amazing daughter, Princess Jahanara.

Possessing her mother's intelligence, courage, and ability to rule, Princess Jahanara takes her role in the empire as seriously as any of her brothers. Her father trusts her discernment, and she is one of his top advisors. Jahanara's brothers could not be any more different from each other.  Dara, the idealistic intellectual and heir to the throne, wants to continue ruling the Hindu majority (the ruling family has been Muslim for generations) compassionately.  He reads and translates Hindu texts, and he strives for both Muslims and Hindus to leave peacefully and respectfully together.  Their brother Aurangzeb cares little for intellectual pursuits and is a Muslim extremist.  He works his way up the military ranks and becomes a cruel despot.

As Princess Jahanara deals with mourning her mother and the increased animosity between her brothers, she falls in love, and her love must remain secret given her role in the empire.  The entire book is told from Jahanara's point of view, and I applaud John Shors' ability to so effectively write from a strong female's point of view.  Her thoughts about her love interest made me completely forget that a man wrote the book.  I think he covered not only Jahanara's specific struggles but also issues universal to all women of all time periods, like the conflict between duty and identity.  Some of the best scenes in the book were those between Jahanara and her best friend, Ladli. Ladli is a beautiful Hindu kitchen servant in the Red Fort where the Emperor and his family reside.  For those of us who are not blessed enough to have a sister, girlfriends mean the wolrd to us.  Ladli's love and sacrifice for Jahanara is so moving; she is one of my all-time favorite female sidekick characters.

I do not want to give away any spoilers, but if you like historical fiction and love stories, you must read Beneath a Marble Sky.  Shors paints a vibrant picture of the decadent noble's lifestyles, warring tribes, and creative artisans of seventeenth century Hindustan.  The book is the perfect balance of historical fact and fiction.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Art Studio Sneak Peek

I am happy to announce that our art studio should be finished by the end of next week.  Here are a few teaser photos:


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Mr. Art @ Home has surprised me with a couple of gifts for the studio, and I have had to rethink some of my decorating strategies accordingly.  I will announce a winner of my wallpaper contest early next week, so please watch for the post!

Also, look out for my Literary Friday post later on this evening.  Tomorrow morning I look forward to visiting many of your blogs as I will finally get a break!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Smile!

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Last night, I had a book club meeting.  The planter above was on our hostess's neighbor's front lawn. This is in a very pretty neighborhood, and everything about their front garden was stunning except for the toilet.  I think it is whimsical, and the homeowner must have a fun personality.  I am not making fun of it;  I am not that way.  But I did smile.  :D

I would love to read the letters from the HOA to this home owner.  If this planter happened to be in our front yard or elsewhere in our neighborhood (which is very comparable: same part of town, same schools, same home sizes, styles, etc.), the HOA would have already placed a lien on the property!

I am linking to Fishtail Cottage's Cottage Flora Thursday because I know that Tracie has a sense of humor!

This week has been swamped with meetings, dental and eye appointments, middle school registration, out of town company, and running errands for back to school and college.  If I have not visited your blog yet, please give me until the end of the weekend to get caught-up.  I have missed seeing what y'all are posting!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We Want to Know Wednesday #5



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Alicia aka Queso and Mamarazzi host this linky party, and the questions for this edition of We Want to Know Wednesday were written by Alicia.

Got to *love* this week's questions :D  Thank-you, Alicia!


{1} Who would you call if you had to get bailed out of jail?
{2} If you were a superhero what would your hero name be?
{3} What do you think is one of your best qualities?
{4} What song would you pick to be your own personal theme song?
{5} What celebrity do you think is most over rated?

1.   I would probably call my friend Corinne to bail me out of jail because she would be there for me ASAP, she maintains a clear head in a crisis, and she would not ask any questions!  ;P

2.   Mr. Art @ Home says if I were a superhero, I would be called the Blonde Bombshell (I'll go with that)!  :D

3.   I think one of my best qualities is my commitment to advocacy for children (I hope).

4.   This one is tough.....hmmmmmm.......

      For today (only) my thee song would be Adam Ant's "Strip" because Mr. Art @ Home installed a programmable thermostat with an iPhone app and I did not know how to work it. The girls and I were way to hot today!  It was flipping hot in the house!




5.    I guess I would have to say the entire Kardashian family: four TV shows?  Really???  :/

I hope you join all the fun today @ Dandelion Wishes.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Table Scape Inspired by the Lake

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We recently spent our last weekend at the lake before school starts back, and I miss the lake already. I decided to set our breakfast table to remind us of how much fun we have had at Lake Martin.


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The tablecloth is lake blue, and it was an Ebay purchase.

The napkins and napkin rings are vintage.


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The bowls are Anthropologie latte bowls by Biscuit.  The bamboo flatware reminds us of the lake because we have bamboo floors in our cabin, and we use bamboo flatware at the lake cabin.


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In the center of the table, we have a MacKenzie-Childs vase with daisies and candlestick.


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The vintage glass is filled with a soy candle made by waverly and irving.


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What are you having for breakfast this morning?  We are having Muesli, Greek yogurt, and Paris tea.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ottoman {LOVE}

I am liking these rooms right now.  I think the ottomans are fun. Images are from Anthropologie.

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What do you think?  Do you like ottomans?  Are they practical or impractical?

You still have a few days left to enter my wallpaper contest.  The prize is not wallpaper, but some neat Anthropologie prizes.  The link for the contest is here.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cherry Crumble Coffee Cake

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I agreed to write a guest post for Elaine @ Sunny Simple Life a few weeks ago, and I had technical difficulties.  {big surprise}  ;P  If you have never visited Elaine, you can do so here.  Her blog is one of my favorites!  I love her voice; she writes about all kinds of practical and fun topics.  

I have a little rectangular baker that reminds me of Elaine, and it came with a recipe for a delicious cherry crumble coffee cake.

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Cherry Crumble Coffee Cake


Ingredients


Crumble:
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds (I actually used slivered almonds)
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats

Cake:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup fresh or frozen cherries, chopped and pitted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crumble:
In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, four, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add butter; using a pastry blender, mix well.  Add almonds and oats, mix together, and set aside.

To make the cake:
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add butter; using a pastry blender, mix until ingredients resemble coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, lightly beat egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Add to dry ingredients; fold until smooth.  Pour batter into buttered 8" X 10" rectangular baker.  Scatter cherries over the surface; sprinkle crumble evenly over top of cake.  Bake until cake has risen and turned golden, about fifty minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for twenty-five minutes.  Serve warm.  Serves 8 - 10.

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I hope you will bake this cake and enjoy it with your favorite coffee.  I recommend Starbucks' Caffe Verona.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Happy List #22


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I only have one item on My Happy List this week:

My Happy List:

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I am happy that I can spend one last weekend with my daughter at Lake Martin before she goes off to college.  This is the last time our family will be together, intact, with both girls at home.  I am happy that I am a mom to two of the most wonderful young ladies on earth!

Wishing you peace with your family this weekend :D

Please join Mamarazzi @ Dandelion Wishes, and share your happy!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Friday, July 22, 2011

Literary Friday: Patina Style

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This week I read Patina Style by Brooke Giannetti & Steve Giannetti.  I usually check-out home decorating books from the library before purchasing them, but I ordered a copy of Patina Style  from Giannetti Home because I knew I would not be disappointed.  I have followed Brooke's blog, Velvet & Linen, for a very long time.  At first I was a "lurker" because I really did not understand blogging, but eventually I became a public follower.

I first discovered Brooke & Steve while reading Country Living Gardener several years ago, and I instantly fell in love with their home.  I thought it was so pretty, and the beauty of their home did not end with the walls; it extended out into the garden and pool area.  You could tell from the article that the family enjoyed blurring the boundaries between inside and outside.  Their cottage style mixed subtle garden hues, exterior elements, and pretty, soft florals.  Although they have redecorated most rooms since it was printed, it has been fun seeing how their lovely home has evolved.

Patina Style illustrates the Giannettis' definitive style through gorgeous photographs and well-written prose (yes, I am one of those readers who actually reads home decorating books).  I like the way the book is organized into chapters featuring elements of their design philosophy; "Embracing Imperfections," "Architectural Elements," and "Indoor Outdoor" were three of my favorite chapters. "Embracing Imperfections" taught me how a gorgeously painted accent wall can be sanded to achieve an aged patina.  In "Architectural Elements," I was drawn to the creative displays of old doors and shutters. "Indoor Outdoor" is my very favorite chapter. Architectural features are also used outside to define outdoor rooms.  I love the photo of an outdoor garden room that is anchored with weathered shutters. Pots and a painting are hanging from them adding to the coziness of the room.  The sitting area also features a heavy metal industrial shelving unit filled with gorgeous succulents planted in a variety of pots.  This chapter also features indoor rooms with stone tables and other outdoor elements.  The indoor and outdoor rooms are linked through casually opened, lovely French doors. This blend of the indoor and outdoor is definitely my favorite design element of patina style.

The Giannettis love shopping at antiques fairs and flea markets.  They believe rooms should have a combination of old and new, vintage and practical.  A pretty antique always has a story behind it; family pieces always remind the owners of their history.  Acquired pieces are fun, too, especially when found on fantastic trips out of the country, or fun outings to the local flea market.  Either way, memories and stories associated with antiques make a home unique, and I love how Brooke and Steve mix antiques with new upholstery and streamlined industrial pieces.

Brooke and Steve are in the planning stages of building their dream home, Patina Farm. Brooke is keeping her blog readers updated on their progress, and I hope that each step is documented because it would also make a great book.  I hope the Giannettis take the hint!

I love this book, and I look forward to reading it again over the weekend.  I know this book will make my Best Home Decorating Book List of 2011, and I highly recommend it.  If you would like to see which books made the cut in 2010, here is the link.

Until next time...

Happy Reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jelly on a Roll

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"Jelly on a Roll"
6" X 6"
Oil on Gesso Board


I have received lots of emails, and, yes, I did paint this little painting.  ;P

Linking to:

Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage.


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Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

The Votes Are In!

I want to thank all of you who voted and commented on our art studio poll and thread.  We had a tie! Colorful storage and Shabby Chic won.

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Colorful Storage

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Shabby Chic

I must say that I love the pops of color in the first photo.  I will probably use a color mixture with maybe a few chippy Shabby Chic elements.  I could probably use a healthy dose of color in my home. Where is David Bromstad when you need him?

If you haven't entered my Wallpaper Contest, you may do so here.  I truly appreciate your comments.  They are so helpful to me since Mr. Bromstad is busy!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

We Want to Know Wednesday #4

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I want to welcome Alicia (aka Queso) to We Want to Know Wednesday!

Here are this week's questions, provided by Mamarazzi.


{1} What would you do with an extra $1000 a month?
{2} What category of blogger do you think you best fall under?
{3} What is your go to solution when you are having a bad hair day?
{4} If you were a Crayon, what color would you be?
{5} They say love is in the little things. What is a little thing someone does to show you love?


1.   I would save it to help pay for our annual Christmas ski trip to Beaver Creek, Colorado.  :D

2.   There are categories for bloggers?  :/  Maybe that's my problem because I am all over the place. How would y'all categorize my blog?

3.   If you are healthy and cancer-free, there is no such thing as a bad hair day.  :D

(PS:  Have you ever seen Mamarazzi's skin and hair?  I don't think she has ever really had a bad hair day in her life; methinks she likes an excuse to look all girly with the cute hair accessories!)

4.   Scarlet {of course}  ;P

5.   Mr. Art @ Home rarely ever lets me load the dishwasher.  He is so grateful for home cooked meals after many years of traveling, that he likes to show his appreciation by cleaning up after I've prepared a meal.  <3  

I love the questions this week!  :D

Please join Mamarazzi @ Dandelion Wishes for We Want to Know Wednesday!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

What We're Reading #6

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It is July 20th: time for out What We're Reading Linky Party.  Bonnie and I co-host this party every month, and Bonnie is hosting it at her blog, The Boatwright Family.

Over the weekend I read Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews.  I have read several of her books, and just a few months ago I read The Fixer Upper, which I loved.  You can read my post about it here.

This book starts out fairly promising.  Andrews' characters always have strong, individual voices, and the three friends in this book are unique and intriguing characters.  Their names are Ellis, Dorie, and Julia.  They are childhood friends who attended an all-girls' Catholic school in their hometown of Savannah, Georgia.  Now they are in their mid-thirties, and they have not visited each other in a couple of years.   In order to reconnect, they rent a house in the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the entire month of August.  Each woman is facing a crisis invovling very difficult decisions, and all three women have enjoyed success in their respective fields.  What I don't understand about their story is why the women make very poor, stupid decisions throughout the book.

Stupid Decision #1:   Dories's older sister had committed to joining the three friends, but she backs out at the last minute.  They rent a larger house for four rather than three, and Dorie budgets her trip based on her sister's share of the rent.  Dorie's poor decision is that she asks a stranger she meets in a diner to rent the extra bedroom from them: a woman who seems rather shady.  Her name is Maryn, and she does bring trouble with her.

Stupid Decision #2:   Ellis becomes attracted to the broker than broke landlord of Ebbtide, the house they are renting.  His name is Ty, and he is a law school dropout, surfer dude, and day trader.  The wise woman would turn away from his abs and run like heck.

Stupid Decision #3:   Julia wants to spend a whole month away from a successful man who loves her and wants to marry her.  She also loves him, but she is acting immature.

Although these women are supposed to be relatively smart, they revert back to immature, whining, cursing adolescents when they are together.   I was so disappointed by the cursing in this book.  I did not realize that mature, successful, thirty-something women behaved this way. To me, it seems way out of character.  I did not find their immature antics cute at all.  I actually find myself wincing at the things they do.

If you want to read a fun book by Andrews, please read The Fixer Upper. Normally I do not post about books I don't like, but there has been a lot of talk about this one, and I like several of Andrews' other books.  I felt almost obligated to warn you about these stupid and immature characters .  Do you know what Julia, Ellis, Dorie, and Maryn need?  A sassy gay friend.  I expected him to appear at any moment and say, "What!  What!  What are you doing?  You are a stupid b*tch!"  Warning, he says the "b" word!



Please share your summer reading with us!

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Cloche Party

Marty is hosting a Summer Cloche Party, and I want to participate even though my cloche has:

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a Napoleonic Complex.  Yep, he is short.  Normally we use the cloche for cheese, but today I have a small bowl with sea glass inside.  Not creative, I know, but I am limited due to his stature.


I did use the same cloche to decorate for our Harry Potter party.  He held the golden snitch so it couldn't fly away.

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Please join Marty @ A Stroll Through Life for her Summer Cloche Party.

Also, enter my Wallpaper Contest here.

And don't forget:  tomorrow is our What We're Reading Linky Party. Bonnie will be hosting, and we would love for you to share your summer reading with us!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wallpaper Contest!

I want to wallpaper a feature wall in our art studio, and I would appreciate your help!  I have narrowed my choices down to five.  I will be papering the wall that will have the antique armoire relocated from our dining room on it. You can see the armoire here.  All wallpapers are from Anthropologie.


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Watercolor Peony 


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Salix


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Mansfield Court


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Flora & Fauna


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Pages-And-Pages


Please leave a comment with your favorite wallpaper for the studio.  Explain why you like it best, and if I pick the wallpaper you commented about, I will enter you in a drawing for these Anthropologie prizes:

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Mistral's Artist Series South Seas Soap

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Porridge's Pink Lemonade Candle


Please only pick one or you will be disqualified!  Thanks so much for your input.  My followers are the *best*  :D


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Art @ Home!

It has been storming and dreary this weekend, so Mr. Art @ Home has been busy in our lake cabin.

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{They are light dimmers made from fishing lures.}



At least Mr. Art @ Home has exceptional taste in women   ;P

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Happy List #21

Saturday is My Happy List Day!!!



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Today's list is a little random.

My Happy List

1.   Shanley Belle has grown up with Harry Potter.  I have taken Shanley and her friends to many midnight book releases and movie premiers.  Thursday night, we went to the final installment of the movie series less than a month before Shanley and her friends go away to college.  Shanley has the sweetest friends, and her good judgment in friends makes me happy!


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Shanley, Caitlin, and Roxie

2.   Lake Martin makes me happy.  


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Shanley Belle wake skating

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Shelley knee boarding


Although the girls probably won't be enjoying water sports on the lake this weekend due to thunderstorms, we can still have fun because....


3.  We went to the library this week.  Trips to the library always make me happy!  


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I can drink some hot tea and read some good books and relax this weekend!


4.   My sweet friend Corrine gave me all kinds of goodies for our art studio. She is so thoughtful!  Here are just a few of the fun things she gave Shelley and me.

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Encouraging friends make me very happy!


5.   I was playing around on Photobucket and there is this Blue Moon function on there.  I think it is a beer or something, but the photo effect is pretty.  I do not condone the use of this beer (I have never tried it) or any other alcohol. They are sponsoring this effect, I think.  Learning new things makes me happy!  Here is a photo using the effect:



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6.   Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 made me very, very happy. It was strictly written for the fans of the books.  I loved that nothing was explained, and the word horcrux was never mentioned.  Thank-you.  The last installment was:

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Please join Mamarazzi, and share your happy!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Friday, July 15, 2011

Literary Friday: Amaryllis in Blueberry

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This week I read Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum.  I want to apologize because I was out late this morning at the Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 midnight showing, and I am exhausted.  I really should have written this post earlier in the week, but such is life.  I will keep this review short and to the point considering I can barely read the screen due to my blurry vision.

I chose this book because it is the July Books-A-Million Literary Book Club selection.  They are almost always very good recommendations.  I could not put this book down, and it is a very quick read. Amaryllis in Blueberry is the coming of age story about a family with four daughters (ages 11 -18) all named "Mary":  Mary Grace, Mary Catherine, Mary Tessa, and Amaryllis.  Did you catch that?  Four Marys: Mary Grace, Mary Catherine, Mary Tessa, and Amaryllis.  The oldest three daughters share their parents' blonde, Nordic good looks, except for Amaryllis, who is dark with piercing blueberry-colored eyes.  She is also clearly the mother's favorite daughter. The book reminded me of The Virgin Suicides because the girls are all terribly troubled in four very different ways, and the parents do not have a clue.  They are actually part of the problem due to neglect and denial.  When the "devoutly" Catholic father, Dick (aptly named), has a crisis, he decides to take the entire family to Africa.  His priest suggests the move: Dick could become a medical missionary on the dark continent. The irony here is that Dick is a pathologist, and he is not adequately trained before leaving; neither is the family, and this is what perhaps annoys me most about the book: the abrupt decision to go on the mission field, and the lack of mission field training.  Growing up Southern Baptist and being involved in Girls in Action and then as a GA leader, I had never heard of such a thing.

The story is told (primarily) from the four sisters, Seena (the mother), and Dick's points of view, with only Amaryllis's expressed in first person.  I did not mind the multiple points of view because it gives the reader insight into how everyone misreads and misinterprets each others' actions.  I also enjoyed the setting: summer and fall of 1976.  Like Amaryllis, I was also eleven in 1976, and Meldrum did a fantastic job with the cultural references.  I also liked that there are more twists and turns in the plot than a Gringotts mine car ride (sorry for the Harry Potter reference); it is perhaps the most unpredictable plot I have read in a very long time.  I also think that Meldrum is an excellent writer.

I did not like the way Meldrum addressed African cultural differences.  For example, I think she portrays the Dipo rituals in a very condescending way.  I also do not appreciate the treatment of religion and faith in the book.  The book jacket's synopsis states that the family is healed by secrets. This is untrue; there was not really any healing.  I also found Seena's constant Greek mythological references tiring.  Rather than enjoying her time as a stay at home mother, Seena wasted far too much time reading about myth, and far too little time caring for her daughters. Seena's given name is Christina, but obviously she can't bear to be called a name with Christ's name as a part of it.  I understand that this is a work of fiction, and I also can see the juxtaposition of Catholicism, mythology, and African mysticism in the book, but it is definitely not rendered as well as Meldrum's complex characters.

I wanted to like the characters, and I found this difficult until the very end of the book.  There is only one character I truly wanted to see happy in the end; I did not care about the rest of them.

Just a reminder that our What We're Reading Linky Party will be on Wednesday, July 20.  Please join Bonnie @ The Boatwright Family; she is hosting this month!




What We're Reading




Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill