28 Sep Geraniums by Marlene Hauser
A beautifully told story of a young girl’s struggle for freedom from her dysfunctional family
First of all, enormous thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things tours for the opportunity to be part of this blogtour, or I would never have heard of Geraniums by Marlene Hauser.
I can’t believe such a powerful and moving story has stayed under the radar for over a year. It should be at the top of the bestseller lists, for its subject, plot and its wonderful main character, Lily.
Set in the sixties, the story opens a few decades earlier with a description of Lily’s grandmother, Emma Preston, “M”, as a girl who grows into a malevolent woman, twisted in body and mind by a childhood bout with polio.
When her only son Jack marries sweet Lauren Rose, M disapproves, and sets out to destroy her daughter-in-law.
The fragmentation and frailty of her parents’ marriage is seen through Lily’s eyes as she, her older sister Mags and younger brother Artie are dragged around the world in the wake of Jack’s naval career. A brutal husband, scarred by his wartime experiences and psychologically damaged by his mother, he succeeds in driving away his wife.
But he can’t destroy Lily.
Can Lily survive her dysfunctional family?
Determined to be reunited with her mother one day, Lily endures all the petty cruelties of her father and grandmother. But M’s campaign to destroy not just Lauren Rose, but her legacy, grows ever more vicious. Lily will need all her courage, resilience and wit if she is to survive her dysfunctional family.
This was a beautifully told story, sharp and incisive in its portrayal of a very young girl, clever, outgoing and loving, growing up with adults determined to thwart her natural talents. Lily is a character you’ll love from the minute you meet her, a little girl forced to grow up too soon, trying to protect not just her younger brother, but her older sister and mother.
The other characters are enthralling, too. M and Jack are so skilfully drawn that we can see that they are products of their upbringing, their ugliness stemming from tragedies that have befallen them. That’s not to say you’ll sympathise with them, but it makes their awful behaviour convincing. They are the monsters Lily has to defeat – and yet, Jack, in particular has some redeeming qualities as a father. Sadly, they’re subsumed by his weakness and willingness to give in to his mother.
Lauren Rose, Mags and Artie are all sympathetic characters, too, each dealing in their different ways with M and Jack’s behaviour.
But it’s Lily who shines out in this story. Will she bloom, like her mother’s beloved geraniums, or wilt away from lack of being cherished?
I enjoyed this story so much, as a story, but I also took away from it a very powerful message.
It opens with M, who meets the challenges she faces by turning sour, bitter and mean. It closes with Lily who faces up to her challenges with a sweet, feisty and loving nature.
Sending out cries for help that no-one hears, she learns to help herself. She is an inspiration.
Geraniums by Marlene Hauser is published by The Book Guild in paperback and ebook
About the Author
Marlene Hauser is the American author of Off-Island and originated the award-winning TV film Under the Influence. Marlene holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University in the City of New York. She currently lives in Oxford.
Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blogtour and to the publishers The Book Guild for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster
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