Monday, July 2, 2012
Where Lilacs Still Bloom - by Jane Kirkpatrick
Where Lilacs Still Bloom, by Jane Kirkpatrick, is based on the true story of Hulda Klager, a German immigrant with a passion and God-given talent for hybridizing lilacs to form new varieties. Although her father doubted that a husband would support such a departure from the expected role of a housewife, Frank Klager and Hulda's entire family lent not only their support, but their physical labor to assist Hulda in her dream. While Hulda's life was not easy, facing regular flooding that threatened to destroy what she had invested so much of her life into, and outliving her family members, she took joy in the flowers and the skills God had given her and strove to use those talents and beauty to enrich the lives of everyone she came in contact with. Her generosity with her time, her talent, and her treasure touched thousands of lives, and in time, came back to her full-circle as others returned the love she had so generously dispensed.
I have read several of Jane Kirkpatrick's novels, and I have enjoyed them all. This one was no exception, although it did take me several tries to get invested in the story. The book employs several different viewpoints to complete the story, and I had trouble keeping them straight until I had read enough to become invested in the individual characters. Especially, because it isn't until late in the book that the stories begin to weave together. Having read the Author's Notes at the end of the book, I understand the purpose for including these additional fictional characters to enhance Hulda Klager's story, but it did take longer for me to understand where the story was going with them added in so early on in the book.
Once I got past the initial confusion, however, I really came to love Hulda. She was so driven and had so much passion for her flowers, yet was self-aware enough to see that her family needed her too. So many of us struggle with the balance of family versus work or hobbies, and Hulda recognized that her priorities may not have always been straight, and she worried that she was neglecting her family for the sake of her flowers. Yet, that very family worked hard to ensure that she could continue her work: weeding, planting, taking over house chores, rescuing the flowers from the floods, encouraging her to continue to stretch and grow, and celebrating her successes with her.
The love story of Frank and Hulda was so sweet. Hulda's father had told her not to share her passion with her husband, because he felt Frank would discourage her. Frank was honest in that he didn't want the flowers to take her away from him, yet did everything he could to aid her work. The simple things he did for her, (with no spoilers, for it was mostly the surprise of them that made them so sweet), demonstrated a pure, sweet love for his wife, and the partnership was a subtle yet enriching focus point for the story.
There is a lot of sadness in this book, and knowing that it's a true story makes it that much sadder. If you are a reader who doesn't like to cry with a story, then you probably don't want to try this one. But, even with the sadness, life goes on, and Hulda finds a way to continue living, and continues to find people and work worth living for.
I give this book 4 stars; once I got into the story, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I am certainly not a horticulturist, yet I found the story engaging.
You can read an excerpt from Chapter 1 HERE.
Find out more about the author HERE.
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I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah as part of their Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.