Jan Surasky’s latest novel, The Lilac Bush Is Blooming, tells the story of a family through multiple generations. Narrated by the teenage Annie May Parker, the middle child in a now-fatherless family (her father has passed on), the book takes place in the 1950s and describes the coming of age of not only its narrator, but also her siblings – the beautiful, slightly older Carrie, and the winsome and childlike Georgie. Living in a small town in rural New York State, Annie May and her siblings are far from the city kids that we so often associate with anything and everything New York, but are rather humble people with humble beginnings.
When Annie May finds some carefully preserved journals, notated and organized by her beloved grandmother, in the attic of the family’s home, she starts on a journey of discovery, learning more about the origins of her family than she ever would have expected. From a beautiful Native American chief’s daughter whose love of a white man and hard living cost her creature comforts to multiple European ancestors brought to America as indentured servants against their will, through reading these journals, Annie May discovers the true grit that her family possesses, the internal fortitude to face their circumstances with strength and come out swinging – at least most of the time – and also revels in the fact that she comes from such hearty stock.
The tone of this novel is eternally optimistic, and Surasky has a penchant for detailed descriptions of everyday objects and other minutiae that may sometimes escape the eye. While the journal entries and letters of Annie May’s ancestors are all written in a tone that is suspiciously similar to the narration, the entries are clearly well researched. It is readily apparent that Surasky put a lot of love, thought, and effort into the authenticity of the tales she weaves into the story, and the joy – and pride – that Annie May feels upon discovering her heritage is infectious. The Lilac Bush Is Blooming is not a novel for everyone, but for those who appreciate wholesome, lovingly written books with an historical bent and endearing characters, it’s well worth reading.
Ashley McCall is a reviewer supreme, the kind of reviewer that comes once in a lifetime—at least, once in her own lifetime. An MFA graduate with a degree in creative writing (emphasis in screenwriting) who now spends her days working near the very top of a downtown skyscraper, she enjoys books of all genres, preferring the beauty of language to explosive plots, but harboring a not-so-secret love for smart, well-written detective and crime novels. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she currently resides in Los Angeles, where, despite her graduate degree, she does NOT possess a secret desire to break into the entertainment industry. In her free time, she enjoys trying new restaurants and breweries, travel, long romantic walks on the beach, and writing intentionally bad poetry to submit for publication.
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