Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

You just never know what someone else's life is really like no matter what it looks like from the outside. It can look like someone is living a charmed life and yet there are fissures beneath the surface that ultimately cause a collapse. Rebuilding after something like that can be difficult. Facing the fact that an imperfect life could possibly be a better one is hard but can be true as Emily, the main character is Sarah Jio's new novel, The Violets of March proves.

Opening as Emily's soon to be ex-husband leaves their home together for the last time, Emily reflects on the loss of her husband and her unsuccessful struggle to write another book after the phenomenal success of her first novel. She is really sort of drifting when a friend suggests she needs to get away and her great-aunt Bee writes and invites her to come and spend time with her all the way across the country on Bainbridge Island in Washington. With warm memories of wonderful childhood summers there, Emily jumps at the chance and sets off to the island to heal and open a new chapter in her life.

Once she gets to the island, Emily discovers a WWII era diary that proves captivating reading and has some close and surprising connections to her life. As she opens herself up to the possibilities of a new life, she is energized to dig into some old family history and to write again, this time the story that is in her heart.

The characters here are appealing. Great-aunt Bee is eccentric enough to captivate but not enough to be batty. Emily is floundering but has a core of strength to her that makes her intriguing and keeps the reader engaged, wanting to see where her story goes. The secrets and silences are by no means sinister but are clearly vital and important both the the mystery of the diary and to Emily's family. The mystery of the diary is a little bit predictable but since its story is interspersed in the larger narrative, that predictability is forgivable. Jio has drawn a vivid and appealing picture of Bainbridge Island. It is the perfect setting for a tale so tied to the past as so much of the island seems to be a place out of time where little has changed physically in years. There is a charming small town, interconnected feel to the story and Emily is folded into the community, allowing her to become a part of something bigger than her perceived failures and to look into her deepest, truest self as she learns the value of fresh starts even amidst the ties to the past. A pleasing read, Jio has created a delightful beach read of a book.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. Sounds like a good one for my summer reading list!

  2. I'm really looking forward to this one!


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