Starred Review, Madapple.
Meldrum, Christina (Author)
May 2008. 416 p. Knopf, hardcover, $16.99. (9780375851766). Knopf, library edition, $19.99.
Aslaug lives in isolation; the flowers and plants that her mother, Maren, uses to make their lives possible
are more real to her than the outside world. Then Maren dies, and Aslaug makes her way to the nearby
Maine town, where she finds her Aunt Sara and teenage cousins Susanne and Rune. Aslaug hopes they
will have a clue to her father’s identity; she learns, as readers already have, that Maren proclaimed Aslaug
a virgin birth. Aunt Sara, a charismatic preacher, wants none of this. But Susanne, enthralled with the
writings of esoteric religionists and pagans, believes this is a possibility, and Rune is enthralled with
Aslaug herself. Then Aslaug finds herself pregnant, and divine intervention is once more a possibility. Plot
summary does little justice to this haunting book, which is as much mysticism as it is story. Meldrum
plunges deeply into the nature of reality. She uses language in a particularly arresting way, and the leaves
and petals of the plants that are so much a part of Aslaug’s life shimmer over the pages. If all this wasn’t
satisfaction enough, Meldrum, a litigator, mixes faith and science with a solid mystery, told in the
transcripts of a trial in which Aslaug is the defendant. There is much to ponder in this enthralling
achievement from a debut author.
— Ilene Cooper