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“Amaryllis in Blueberry” by Christina Meldrum

In the history of dysfunctional families: The Osbournes, Kardashians, Lohans, Evans (Teen Mom 2), Fockers, Tenenbaums, and Hoovers (Little Miss Sunshine): no one, NO ONE comes even CLOSE to the Slepy family.

Oh Slepy family. Where should we even begin? At the end, which is where Christina Meldrum begins: good wife Christian Slepy is on trial with a witch doctor and Queen Mother presiding in a tiny West African village for killing husband Richard Slepy.

Allow me to introduce you to the Slepy Family.

Richard “Dick” Slepy- Father committed suicide after losing a patient in a botched surgery attempt, mother fell into depression and was never mentally there afterwards.  Fell in love with the Virgin Mary at age 11 and continued desiring her until meeting Christina in class at college. Obsessive and stalkerish, he can’t get the image of Christina’s neck or eyes out of his head and believes, after seeking counsel with the local Catholic priest, that God demands Dick to marry Christina- that loving her instead of the Virgin Mary means he must seek matrimony with her, because matrimony is a union with Mary, Mary being a symbol of the church as apostle Paul says husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the Church.  Misguided, unstable, completely unsure of himself, and extremely- and obsessively- devout.

Christina “Seena” Slepy- Don’t call her Christina. In fact, don’t tell her to do anything. Father and brothers just up and left her with no forwarding address as a kid- raised by grandparents. Obsessed with the classics, especially Greek mythology. Labels herself a “silly child, selfish bitch, loveless, and self-hating woman”.  Doesn’t trust or believe anything, especially when it comes to love.  Doesn’t love her husband, doubts if she “truly loves” her kids, at war with herself if she really loves the other man she cheated on her husband with or just the idea of him….

Mary Grace- 1st child- has a lot of brains and is really good at math, but believes she’s trapped into playing the dumb, giggling, ditzy, blonde teenager her parents and teachers expect her to be. Believes she will always be “that” girl- the one you have to watch out for, the slut. And if you believe that’s how you should behave, well, maybe that’s how you should behave…..

Mary Catherine- 2nd child- believes herself to be St. Catherine of Siene- more obsessed with religion than her father- all thoughts and life revolves around being pious and holy.

Mary Tessa- 3rd child- Chief troublemaker and, according to her mother, either “lively and endearingly clever or annoyingly defiant”.  Quite possibly the only normal member of the family.

Amaryllis “Yllis”- 4th child- not a Mary- doesn’t even look like a Mary: dark skin, dark hair,  and blueberry eyes to their fair skin, blonde hair, and pale yellow and green eyes.  Apparently can taste, smell, hear, and see emotions and can detect the truth in all situations.

Truth. That’s a lot of what you get to know- that none of the characters are able to communicate to themselves or each other.

Then there’s Clara- the Slepy’s neighbor when they are in their summer-house on Danish Landing.  A spitfire of an older woman with a beehive hairdo and rickets, she has a dry sense of humor and a lot she could have taught the Slepy’s: especially Mary Grace, seeing how she’s been through her own fair share of pain and heartache in life.

Told through the viewpoint of each of the above characters, this book is a study of what happens when a horribly dysfunctional family neglects to consider than if you have problems, they tend to follow you no matter if you’re in Michigan or West Africa.

By the way- the whole move to Africa explanation? It takes until Yllis is around 9 years old and points it out herself for Dick to realize, “huh, she doesn’t look like me, I wonder if maybe she quite possibly couldn’t be mine?” Then, once that revelation hits, the magical answer for this whole scenario is given by the local Catholic priest, who says “go to Africa and instead of feeling like you want to kill whoever your wife cheated on you with, you can find peace by being a doctor there and giving of yourself.” So yea, everyone agrees, let’s go to Africa!

I wanted to bitch slap everyone but Tessa in this book. But mostly I wanted to bitch slap Dick and Seena for being so full of themselves and such god awful parents.

Given that each chapter comes from a different person’s perspective you get a lot of surprises- things they’ve been keeping from each other- situations where one person thinks it’s this- and the other person knows the truth is that.

I couldn’t stop reading it for just that reason; it was like a giant scandalous tabloid! A train wreck you couldn’t look away from! A “well at least my life doesn’t suck THAT bad”….. plus it was mesmerizing to getting to know each character and what makes them do what they do and think what they think.

If you love tabloids and a good scandal, stories about people, and what make them tick: then you will LOVE this book. If, on the other hand, you want to leave the drama with your mama, stay away. Because there’s a LOT going on in here.

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