Review: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
Title: The Violets of March
Author: Sarah Jio
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Rating: 3.5 bookmarks
Source: Author via the publisher
Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis: Set on the enchanting island of Bainbridge in the Puget Sound up in the Pacific Northwest, Sarah Jio’s debut novel weaves together two stories about love, loss, and discovery.
I vividly recall spying The Violets of March on the pages of Edelweiss several months ago. The blurb and cover hooked me–I’m a sucker for dual story lines, lost loves, and uncovering secrets. Sitting down to read it, I was quickly captivated by the storyline, characters, and the setting.
20-something Emily Wilson leaves New York City for Bainbridge Island nursing a trifecta of ‘brokens’: her heart, her marriage, and her creative spirit. Almost 10 years have passed since she published her best-seller and when great-aunt Bee invites her back to the safe haven of her childhood, Emily doesn’t hesitate. She travels to Washington hoping it will be the panacea to all that ails her.
The story that unfolds over the next 300 pages kept me reading late into the night. While I was interested in Emily and the relationships she builds and rekindles, I was more interested in the story and mysteries she unraveled by way of an old diary discovered in a drawer in her room.
As Emily tries to learn more about Esther, the mysterious author of the diary, she’s met with roadblocks in every direction. Her great-aunt, mother, and all the neighbors who do know things refuse to share them with Emily. As she gets closer to the answers, she realizes that the people who play starring roles in the diary story of 1943 could still be walking the shores of Bainbridge Island.
Ultimately, Emily’s tenacity brings answers and closure, but at what cost?
While I really enjoyed The Violets of March, there were a few issues that left me feeling this was a good read as opposed to an outstanding one.
Some of the transitions and suspense-building plot twists were awkward or forced. Just as Emily was coming close to resolving something, the phone would conveniently ring…or she would be too tired to read one more page of the diary. I understand what Jio was doing but feel like these stalling tactics could have been a bit more subtle.
Aunt Bee was a masterful blocking figure and refused to answer any questions or even discuss what happened back in 1943, but her refusal to discuss anything–especially when she’s portrayed as an intuitive old auntie–left me feeling tepid about her as a character.
Characters going by nick-names or using middle names as their first names made for a convenient way to hide identities until the big reveal at the end. There aren’t a ton of options here for Jio but three or four characters going by other names 60 years ago seemed like a bit of a stretch to me.
Those things said, The Violets of March still tells a good story, and I was invested in the characters and mystery that shrouded them. I loved Jio’s description of the island and would love to visit it some day soon. This novel would be a perfect summer read and also has depth and discussion potential as a book club choice.
Additionally, Sarah Jio is hosting a giveaway of her book and you can register to win a copy on her website.
Here are some other perspectives on The Violets of March:
Meg at Write Meg!
Julie at Booking Mama
Danielle at Chick Lit Reviews
Kristen at BookNAround