Sarah's Stars

Christina Meldrum. Madapple
Knopf  $20.99  ISBN 978-0-375-85176-6  410 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 14

With effort I rotate her body. Her hair slips from her face, and I see her eyes are agape, their whites almost shiny, and their pupils quiescent. Her eyes look like the fruit of the white baneberry plant, the berries Mother called dollís-eyes. For a moment I think she's still alive. I scream. Then I tug her hair and nudge my foot into her side, but she's still as the insect caught fast in the web. I know for certain, then. I know she's dead.

Aslaug lives a lonely existence with her mother in their dilapidated shack in the countryside of Maine. They hardly ever go into town; instead they forage for food in the surrounding areas. They live with an interesting mix of modern technology such as electricity and running water, and primitive techniques like a vast knowledge of edible flora and a lack of knowledge of the outside world. Well, Mother knows all sorts of things but instead of using her wealth of information to benefit her daughter, she chooses only to teach her languages, as many as possible. Mother also has a peculiar habit of taking a plant and smoking it but naÔve Aslaug doesn't quite know the consequences of doing drugs. She also doesn't know that Mother has cancer. But then Mother dies. Distressed by the flurry of social workers and police, Aslaug flees and ends up on a desperate search for a family she isn't even sure exists. What transpires after that will shake Aslaug's worldview for the rest of her life and put her on trial for murder.

Christina Meldrum is certainly intelligent. She has a degree from Harvard Law and the University of Michigan. As well she's worked all over the world. But is Madapple as intelligent as its author, or is it just controversial drivel? The answer is actually a little bit of both. Along with Aslaug's fast-paced tale, the book is jam-packed with facts about different religions from all over the world and detailed profiles of plants and flowers that weave themselves neatly and intricately into the story. But as well as the interesting tidbits of information there are also stereotypes against Christianity that might mislead those who aren't familiar with the faith into thinking that all middle-aged Christians are religious nutcases and all Christian teenagers are rebellious and deceptive. To fully grasp the concept of the book I think the only thing you require is an open mind. This is not the right book to read for people who are offended easily. I still remain unsure as to what the author's intent behind the story was. Is she against religion in general? Against atheism? Against a specific religion? Or did she throw all those aspects in there just because she could? I still think the plot was very interesting though. The chapters follow a pattern in which one chapter is a snapshot of a realistic courtroom drama where Aslaug and many doctors, friends, enemies and detectives who are all connected to the girl are interviewed, and then it switches to regular chapters narrated by Aslaug three or four years prior to the trial. The environment of the book itself is very bleak and almost...sad in a way. There were scenes of violence, scenes of anger, scenes of hopelessness and confinement. The characters themselves all seemed to me to be hazy and dreamlike, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact the whole book seemed hazy and dreamlike, almost ethereal. It was certainly different from anything I've ever read before. Madapple is not a book that will leave you smiling at the end. It is as thoughtful as it is thought provoking, sinister as it is shocking and it will definitely make you think, but I'm still a little confused as to what about?

I give Christina Meldrum's Madapple three and a half out of five stars.


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