Saturday, April 21, 2012

Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick

Even though the new novel, Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick may seem like just another romance story disguised as a historical work of fiction- this book is actually a historical fiction novel.  I've read a number of books by contemporary writers that call their fiction books historical novels when they are nothing more than disguised romance novels.  Perhaps by including a western themed setting or an Amish town, the many authors use a loophole to call the book historical.  Yet, Jane Kirkpatrick's books, with its authentic details, actually live up to the genre of historical fiction.

The author does not rely on simplistic happily after after fairytale endings where the heroine gets married, has children and live happily after after.  Her storylines, based on historical lives, show true heartache and misfortune, yet all the while, the imperfect characters are well developed moral characters with realistic personal flaws.  Her noble casts of characters have more substance, than just to simply seek out romance and marriage.

The setting of this story may seem too simple and uneventful- a married woman with 4 kids living at the turn of the century, tends to her garden and experiments with producing a greater variety of lilacs.  The years the woman, a German immigrant named Hulda, takes to develop a lighter shade of lilac with an increased number of petals, may appear to be trivial, costly and time consuming.  And, in fact her hobby was perpetuated at the expense of purchasing a much needed motor vehicle in favor of a few silly imported  lilac bulbs.  As it turned out, just about half the bulbs were defective and therefore a waste of money. It is hard to believe her husband tolerated such behavior at the expense of more important issues of survival in a turn of the century home. In fact this issue is addressed when the characters wrestle with personal and financial  hardships as either a direct or indirect result of her devotion to gardening.  There are extraordinary circumstances- almost unbelievable- if it were not actually based on historical fact.  There is the death of her two young son in laws, within one year apart, leaving her daughters young widows. Thereafter, during her long life, Hulda lives to bury just about all her children- two daughters and one son.  One is left to wonder how a mother can outlive her children by so many years.  In fact this is addressed by the suggestion that Hulda's intent for the  pursuit of her trivial passion of gardening superceeded that for her children and husband and that her family's life revolved around the pursuit of making her comfortable and happy pleasing her every whim.  The dysfunctional family was had a codependant relationship, and that she manipulated her family through a prolonged mental illness inorder to get their support for her gardening passion. As a reader I could not share the passion that Hulda had for her blooms.  Nevertheless this was a very well written book with well developed characters and a good storyline.  It was truly a good adaption of an actual historical figure into a novel. As a blogger for WaterBrook press I received this book from the publisher in order to write this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

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