Aslaugís mother is eccentric, to say the least, and in their isolated world Aslaug learns to live off the land and ward off her motherís strange moods. The strange mystery behind Aslaugís origins and her motherís background keeps young Aslaug guessing, so she develops a keen mind. When her ailing mother dies, Aslaug faces entering the foster care system. She vividly remembers a mysterious and meaningful event just before her motherís passing, and she soon stumbles on other members of the family who seem to be just as disturbed as her mother. The secret, whatever it is, is kept on this side of the family as well. Eventually a strange and exotic relationship develops between Aslaug and her auntís two children. The aunt is pushed farther than she can handle and becomes more mentally unbalanced as the story moves forward. Aslaug becomes a prisoner in her new home and is freed by the one person she betrayed Ė even though she did so only out of ignorance.
Scene after scene moves the reader more deeply into the story, becoming more emotionally attached to the characters in the story. Some of the seriously deranged characters will have readers feeling outrage and pity simultaneously. The innocent children whose minds become confused and fractured will move readersí hearts to the point of feeling the rush of fear and the joy of freedom.
The gardener and herb-lover in me was thrilled to find accuracy in the pages of Madapple. I enjoyed reading about the harvesting and processing chores Aslaug and Maren performed; the simplicity of their life would appeal to anyone who fantasizes about living isolated in the country. The concept of how what was once believed as possible (such as a religious miracle) becomes less plausible for modern times, yet the characters still believe in the legend, is a tremendous example of the contradictory nature of modern society.
What is most amazing about Madapple is that it is Christina Meldrumís debut novel. This book evinces the authorís skills as a litigator, religious studies, explorations of nature and supernatural aspects of life and her powerful insight to the inner workings of her characters. Jonathan Barkat designed the peaceful, yet haunting cover. Environmentalists may be pleased to see that the book was published in North America, reducing fossil fuels spent in transportation. I could not find any information pertaining to the recycled content, inks used or other aspects of eco-publishing. Normally I would dock at least a 1/2-point for this, but I could not find it in my heart to do so.
Madapple is an intelligently-written and thought-provoking novel, of which the lead characterís herbal knowledge and inner dialogue reminded me of Jean Auelís Clan of the Cave Bear and subsequent books. The author uses just enough description to let you know where the scene takes place but lets the reader fill in the blanks to create their own unique world. The tale bridges many genres from fiction, supernatural, and psychological thriller, with the additional bonus of a strong central focus on family and nature.