It's always a treat to open a novel by a debut author. There's so much possibility there. What story will this author bring? Will the characters live on the pages? Sarah Jio's debut, The Violets of March, takes readers to Bainbridge Island in Washington, a small community where secrets haunt residents for decades, and generations.
Emily Wilson returned to Bainbridge Island when her life fell apart. She had once been a bestselling author, but hadn't been able to write anything for over five years. She loved and married a handsome lawyer, who left her for another woman. When her great-aunt Bee invited her to stay with her on the island, Bee and Emily's friend Annabelle knew Emily needed to heal. And, it was a restful place, until Emily discovered a diary in her bedroom, the story of a doomed romance from the 1940s. Once she immerses herself in that story, Emily will find parallels to her own life, and answers to family questions that have bothered her for years.
The diary told the story of a woman who passionately loved one man, but married another. Despite her marriage, and a baby, she still yearned for the man she had been engaged to, and rejected. And, he still loved her, with a love that called to her, and led to tragedy for so many people on Bainbridge Island. Now, as Emily dates two men, her aunt continues to warn her there may be issues.
Jio's debut is a solid one. The parallel storylines work well to tell stories of assumptions that can doom relationships and lives. And, the reader can only hope Emily will learn from the disastrous events in the diary. But, so much in this story depends on chance encounters and accidental meetings. And, as much as I wanted to love this story, I only liked it. The large cast of characters, in two time frames, became confusing as I tried to guess who people were from the earlier storyline. Emily seems to be a voyeur, peering not only into lives in the past, but also into her own life, viewing it, rather than feeling it. Despite the author's best efforts, Emily appeared to be a researcher, rather than a real person. She just didn't come alive for me. She appeared to be trying to model her life after characters in her favorite book, or the people from the diary.
Saying all that, I'll be eager to read Sarah Jio's second novel. The Violets of March shows promise for an author who can vividly describe a setting, bringing that place to life. And, she did a beautiful job tying the past to the present, with all of the repercussions and relationships. Jio started well, but I have the feeling the future will bring more memorable characters. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this talented author, and those of us who want to read more.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.