Thursday, 8 March 2012

Book Review--Yellow Crocus

Source: Net Galley
Released: December 17th 2010 
Publisher: Flaming Chalice Press
ISBN 0984502203 (ISBN13: 9780984502202)
Author: Laila Ibrahim

"Mattie was never truly mine. That knowledge must have filled me as quickly and surely as the milk from her breasts. Although my family ‘owned’ her, although she occupied the center of my universe, her deepest affections lay elsewhere. So along with the comfort of her came the fear that I would lose her some day. This is our story... "

So begins Lisbeth Wainwright’s compelling tale of coming-of-age in antebellum Virginia. Born to white plantation owners but raised by her enslaved black wet nurse, Mattie, Lisbeth’s childhood unfolds on the line between two very different worlds. Growing up under the tender care of Mattie, Lisbeth adopts her surrogate mother’s deep-seated faith in God, her love of music and black-eyed peas, and the tradition of hunting for yellow crocuses in the early days of spring. In time, Lisbeth realizes she has freedoms and opportunities that Mattie does not have, though she’s confined by the societal expectations placed on women born to privilege. As Lisbeth grows up, she struggles to reconcile her love for her caregiver with her parents’ expectations, a task made all the more difficult as she becomes increasingly aware of the ugly realities of the American slavery system. When Lisbeth bears witness to a shockingly brutal act, the final vestiges of her naivet√© crumble around her. Lisbeth realizes she must make a choice, one that will require every ounce of the courage she learned from her beloved Mattie. This compelling historical novel is a richly evocative tale of love, loss, and redemption set during one of the most sinister chapters of American history.

I feel like all I've been posting lately are gushing reviews! I guess I've been really lucky with books lately!
And here's another (mostly) gushing review!

When I read the blurb about Yellow Crocus, I was interested enough to want to read it, but wary because it sounded very similar to the HUGELY popular novel-turned-movie, 'The Help'.
I was so wrong!

The ONLY thing Yellow Crocus has in common with The Help is the mother/daughter bond the develops between nurse and child. That's pretty much it.

This story takes place over 20 years in the mid-1800's, before the Civil War and before abolition.

The sympathy the reader feels toward Mattie in this book will take your breath away.
Ms. Wainwright's descriptions of what the wet-nurse must sacrifice to care for her 'white child' had me in tears, but the relationship that develops between Mattie and Lisbeth is beautiful to behold.

As the book progresses, we learn more about how women (and men!) lived in those days...and it may make you angry. (It did me!)
Listening to Lisbeth's mother speak her thoughts often infuriated me. Thank GOD we've come a long, LONG way since then!

Mattie is a strong, wonderful character that comes to life within these pages. Witnessing her teach and mold her young charge-- with actions, not so much words-- was amazingly powerful.
The woman Lisbeth grows into is unheard of in that day and age...and a beautiful thing to see.

Now the not-so-gushy...
This book is much too short. Yes, a wonderful story is told...but it's not told as well as it could have been.
Too much time passes between some chapters and the reader is left wondering what happened during those years to Mattie and Lisbeth. The story lacks some of the depth that these missing pieces could bring, and I felt like I was left hanging. I wanted MORE.

But PLEASE don't let that sway you because this is a truly brilliant book and I feel blessed to have read it.

If you loved 'The Help', 'The Secret Life of Bees' or 'The Color Purple', you'll adore 'Yellow Crocus'!

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