Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Root, Petal, Thorn by Ella Joy Olsen

It's always a joy to discover a debut author who brings characters to life on the page. Ella Joy Olsen, in a style that reminds me of Sandra Dallas, brings five women and a house to life in Root, Petal, Thorn.

Five women, one house, one century. Ivy Baygren had hoped to renovate and love her house on Downington Avenue in Salt Lake City. But, when her husband, Adam, collapsed and died, something in Ivy died as well. One month later, she's on the verge of collapse when her panicked children call her brother. He urges her to set goals for herself, to get her house in order. For Ivy, one step is to search for what Adam called "Easter eggs", the traces left behind in the house.

Four other women lived in, and possibly loved, that house. Who was Emmeline who planted the Emmeline rose that thrives and leaves scars one hundred years later? What happened to the woman who lived there during the Depression? What were the fears and memories of the World War II wife and mother? Ivy only had a glimpse of the woman who owned the house before she did, but remembers feeling a slight resentment. "This was my house now, I reasoned with myself. It was fine to be protective of my place in it. I mean, how could a house hold two women in its heart?"

"Perhaps in pondering these women and their stories, using the clues I'd found within the walls of my home,...I'd found the bones of their past, the only things remaining after the actual person was gone." Root, Petal, Thorn is a bittersweet story about flawed, sympathetic characters, most of whom are gone as Ivy searches for their past. Interestingly, it's the story told by a living daughter that's the weakest link in the book. Otherwise, it's a story of connection, women who dealt with the blows of life. Those stories are what Ivy needs as she struggles to realize she's not alone.

Sandra Dallas. Ella Joy Olsen's debut novel reminds me of Dallas' novels of strong women, women coming together to help each other. What a treat if Olsen proves to write those kind of wonderful novels.

Ella Joy Olsen's website is

Root, Petal, Thorn by Ella Joy Olsen. Kensington Books. 2016. ISBN 9781496705624 (paperback), 294p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review it for a journal.

No comments: