May 19, 2012

Review: Madapple

By: Christina Meldrum
Published: May 2008 by Knopf
Format: Hardback, 404 pages
First Reviewed: May 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

A page-turning exploration of human nature and divine intervention--and of the darkest corners of the human soul.

Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be.
When Aslaug's mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mother's death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaug's birth. About what she should do next...
About whether divine miracles have truly happened. And whether, when all other explanations are impossible, they might still happen this very day.

Rating: 4/5

Judging by the description (the hardcover edition, not the cyber edition), I honestly had no idea what to expect. It was intriguing and this was a William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist, so I thought it should be good. From the very beginning, I was so interested in this setup, the format, and the main character. That interest lasted throughout.

Loved the setting! While we were dealing with a modern world, Meldrum was able to create a setting that would be just the opposite for Aslaug. Initially, I was confused on what era we were in, but of course that's all part of the plot, which only made the setting better for me. Also, the "second setting," was just as intriguing and well done. Both polar opposites that allowed for Aslaug to adapt in such a way that you don't see in many books.

When thinking back on the characters, of course the first one I think of is the narrator, Aslaug, but not just for the simple fact that it's her story. She's a very well-crafted character. I can honestly say I've never read a character like her before. She stands out for sure. Loved her voice and how Meldrum made her so oblivious to the real world, yet so smart without it being unrealistic. It's the other characters that made me not so sure about characterization as a whole. I think some of the major-minor characters were fantastic, but others weren't developed enough for me. This is a story-driven piece, so it was hard to really tap into some of the characters. However, Meldrum even managed to give the lawyers, the judge, and witnesses we never actually met great, great voices, all with transcripts.

Semi-colons! Good god, I was going to die. Meldrum used more semi-colons in one book than semi-colons used in all of the books on my bookshelf put together. Other than that and the fact that some passages I felt were a little too long and took away from some of the story at times (very few times...), Meldrum's writing is great. She has more of a poetic style, so her prose sometimes read like verse, which fit very well with this. And how she choose to format this with every other chapter being a section from the court transcripts, was a risky move, but she pulled it off extremely well. If only she would have knocked out 99.99% of those semi-colons...

I'm speechless for a moment. This was one disturbing plot. And I do not mean that a criticism. I repeat: I do not mean that as a criticism. There are two types of disturbing in my book (no pun intended). Disturbing to where I'm disgusted and can't stand what I'm reading and disturbing to where I'm like, "Um, say what? That's, um, I don'" It's very, very interesting. So much different from anything I've ever read. Remember just a few days ago when I was talking about how I'd like to read just a story. Well, I got my wish. This is a story. And it was a very, very good one. My only problem was with some of the plot points. I felt some areas were rushed, some were drawn out a bit too much, and some were a little too much for me.

I'm very borderline with the rating of this. It's almost a five-star book for me, but I just can't bring myself to give it that. It is incredibly creative, inconceivably disturbing, and insanely interesting, and while it has a very strong narrative and main character, I think there was just a tad bit missing from it in areas. Overall, though, I definitely recommend this if you're looking for something different. FYI: I am not religious, but the themes in this did not bother me. I think it'll be okay for any religious beliefs. And be warned that there is some instances that go against many religions.

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