The Blurb: Lonely Lily Phelps is orphaned and in debt at seventeen. Her dark, hidden past causes her to see ghosts. This scared, naive girl must grow up fast if she is to find work, happiness, and build a future, but the weight of the past threatens everything she loves. Because of her terrible secret, Lily must protect her family form the worst danger of all – herself.
PURPLE TREES is a novel about salvation and love.
It’s about family secrets, and dealing with terrible experiences in unique ways. Lily, the main character, is a woman creeping toward madness, caused by a long-buried past tragedy. She is terrorized by life experiences that should bring joy, and does not understand why.
PURPLE TREES takes place on a Massachusetts dairy farm in the 1960s. I grew up on a dairy farm, and wrote scenes in the book of events that really happened. I hope readers get a feel for what the life-style was like. A scene where Lily goes to the barnyard to help her husband, Will, birth a calf is based on one of my husband’s first experiences on the farm. The cow pushed for a long time, and the calf finally slipped out. When it landed, it splashed afterbirth and worse onto my husband, a city boy from Brooklyn. I can still hear him squeaking as he ran to the house to clean up.
Other aspects of the story are pieced together from the experiences of many women I know. No spoilers, but those who have read Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina, Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, or Carolyn Chute’s The Beans of Egypt, Maine will be on familiar ground when reading Purple Trees.
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About the author Ursula Wong:
My next novel, Amber Wolf, is about the farmers in Eastern Europe during WWII who fought against the Soviet occupation. The story brings together my ancestral heritage and my uncle’s experiences in the U.S. army in Europe during the war.
I also have a blog called Reaching Readers where I post very short stories, chronicle events, and announce new releases. For those who would like to receive the posts through email, send me a note at email@example.com and I’ll sign you up. You can see the collection of shorts on my website.
PURPLE TREES doesn't fall into an easy genre or category, so it’s work to find women who the book will speak to. I appreciate the chance to reach out to you through Donna Hole’s kindness and generosity in inviting me to post to her blog.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story concept is simple and complex. Simple for the rural lifestyle depicted; complex for the issues of a child taxed with caring for her dying mother, then her father, and growing up with a brutal, life changing secret. It is a sad, and happy story; an otherwise normal life plagued by an unbelievable secret. I laughed, and cried, and nodded in sympathy with the main character.
The story offers no moral conclusions; it just reports an untenable but common circumstance, and lets the reader decide if moral justice has been served in the end. I loved that the story begins in the present, with the main character, Lily, enticing her granddaughter to disclose a not-so-secret truth by way of telling her own life story. The story plot was obvious to the reader, but the author spun a masterful tale from the unreliable narrator's perspective. I was drawn into the concept of how the two stories - the narrator Lily's past, and the granddaughter's present - were interwoven at strategic moments of the story building.
This story is not filled with action. The tension is expertly built through sympathetic characters trapped in a cycle of uncontrollable events. When it comes to story layers, Ms. Wong knows how to keep the readers interest. I was intrigued from the first sentence to the last. I highly recommend this the novel PURPLE TREES to any reader who is not afraid to dive into a story with complex moral dilemmas, and strong characters that deal with life as it is dealt.
I give this novel 5 stars, and would read more books by the author.