Skip to main content

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

The Violets of March is Sarah Jio's debut novel.  It has a few things in common with the next book that I'll review: both books are set on islands off the coast of Washington near Seattle and both books chronicle a woman's healing in the wake of infidelity and divorce.  Sometimes it seems I read books with similarities in character names, settings or plot themes; it's not something that I try to do, it just happens randomly.

So.  This is what bothered me throughout the entire novel.  The familial relationship between Emily, a struggling writer suffering chronic writer's block, and Bee, an eccentric, secretive octogenarian, is described early in the book as such: Bee is Emily's mother's aunt.  Except pages later Bee is described as an only child, the sole heir of her parents.  As a genealogist, I worried over this the whole book through because how is Bee Emily's great-aunt if Bee is an only child?  It is never spelled out or specified that the relationship is not blood related.

In the wake of a painful divorce, Emily retreats for the month of March to her beloved Bainbridge Island, home of her childhood summers, and her much loved aunt Bee for some much needed healing.  What Emily finds instead is rooted in a complicated family history hiding a complicated family secret that Emily hopes will finally explain why her mother distanced herself from aunt Bee.  Emily hopes it will also explain the emotional distance and disconnect herself and her mother, who has a natural and close relationship with Emily's younger sister.  Much as Emily tries to pry the secret out of Bee, Bee's friend, Evelyn and even her mother, all three women remain tight lipped and refuse to share any details of the project that estranged Emily's mother from her own family.

Soon after her arrival on the island Emily discovers the 1943 journal of a local women whose story and dilemma mirrors Emily's circumstances; in the journal's pages Emily learns lessons from this woman's story that apply to her own life and journey toward healing.  How does this woman's story inform Emily's own family's history and how is this woman connected to Emily's family?

The first half of the book goes by quickly until sometime after the midway point, when the mystery's thisclose to cracking wide open and spilling out all the sordid secrets buried in Emily's family history--secrets that finally illuminate the dynamics of her family.  This is when the book really became a page turner--almost a thriller (I'm a sucker for a good family history mystery, okay?).  It is also a story of how there is more than one side to a story and sometimes the story you've been told your entire life isn't the whole truth.  Honestly, the story in the journal does a better job explaining why Emily's mother separated herself from the family than it does of explaining why Emily's mother has chosen to remain so distant from one of her daughters.  Overall this is a good read, and I recommend you try it out the next time you visit the library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


Popular posts from this blog

Broken by Karin Slaughter

Before I begin the formal review there are a few things I need to get off my chest in the wake of finishing this book; I'll do so without giving away too many (or any) spoilers.
The OUTRAGE!: the identity of Detective Lena Adams' new beau; the low depths to which Grant County's interim chief has sunk and brought the police force down with him; agent Will Trent's wife, Angie's, sixth sense/nasty habit of reappearing in his life just when he's slipping away from her. Thank God for small miracles though because while Angie was certainly referred to during the book, the broad didn't make an appearance. One sign that I've become way too invested in these characters is that I'd like to employ John Connolly's odd pair of assassins, Louis and Angel, to contract out a hit on Angie; do you think Karin Slaughter and John Connolly could work out a special cross over?
Hallelujah: Dr. Sara Linton and agent Will Trent are both back. There is no hallelujah for…

In The Woods by Tana French

"What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with the truth is fundamental, but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies ... and every variation on deception. The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely ... This is my job ... What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this--two things: I crave truth. And I lie." opening lines of In The Woods chapter 1, pages 3-4
In The Woods by Tana French, an Irish writer, is an extremely well-written and well-crafted mystery novel. The downside is that this is French's debut novel, and her website (located at does not offer any insi…

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

When the end came, it seemed to do so completely out of the blue, and it wasn't until long afterward that I was able to see that there was a chain of events leading up to it. Some of those events had nothing to do with us, the Morrisons, but were solely the concern of the Pyes, who lived on a farm about a mile away and were our nearest neighbors." from page seven
I must confess that it took me longer than it really needed to in order to finish the novel Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. The entire story is building up to the big catastrophe that forever destroys all the hopes and dreams the Morrison clan ever dared to hope and dream for its future. In the eyes of the narrator, it is even worse than the tragedy of the car crash that claimed both parents' lives one evening on the heels of some good news the family has received and celebrated. Now you can see why I dreaded getting to the end of a book that drips in foreboding like nobody's business. What can be a worse tra…