Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Crooked Branch

I heard about Jeanine Cummins new novel, The Crooked Branch, on a book blog and just had to interrupt everything and read it.  Set in 1840's Ireland during the Potato Famine and modern-day Queens, it is a very interesting novel about family, genetics, motherhood, fear and courage.

Often with double-narrative stories, I find that I favor one over the other and am irritated when one story stops mid-frame so the other can progress.  I didn't find that to be the case with this novel--both stories, and both narrators were equally compelling, and I thought it was extremely well-crafted so that the two stories unfolded and progressed with a similar cadence and their intersections were masterfully handled.

While I did like the 1840's Irish narrator, Ginny Doyle, as a character more than I liked modern Majella, I don't have to necessarily like a character to like her story.  Odd as it seems, I could relate more to Ginny and the choices she had to make in order to save her family from starvation than I could to Majella and her struggle to adjust to being a full-time mother with a newborn.  Ginny's issues seemed much more real to me than Majella's--maybe that's because Majella is a modern mother and a whiner with not a lot to whine about, whereas Ginny was truly facing life and death decisions.  That said, Majella did grow and develop as a character whom I came to care about...although it still creeps me out that she tuned in her friend's nursery on a baby monitor and spied on her.  I never did get over that breach of what is acceptable.

I read this book shortly after our family's spring break trip to NYC where I finally got to visit the Tenement Museum on the lower east side.  We took the Irish Outsiders tour, and it was fascinating to read about a family who might have experienced much of what we learned about on the tour.  Visiting the Museum just before reading the book enriched the experience that much more for me.

Believe it or not, this book was NOT part of any of the three challenges in which I am participating.  I picked it up because it sounded great, and I wasn't disappointed.  Now, back to the reading plan...


  1. I loved this book, so I'm glad to see you enjoyed it as well. Ginny's story was more interesting to me, too, though I could relate in some ways to Majella in having a hard time adjusting to being a mom.

  2. Thanks for your review. I haven't seen this book around, but it has an intriguing cover and it's nice to see a positive review. I'll have to check it out.

  3. Sounds good. I sometimes have the same feeling about multiple narratives when the more interesting one breaks off.

    Sounds like the "Baby Monitor" incident though a questionable act is very plausible one.

  4. The Tenement Museum and this book sound like a perfect pairing! The museum is on my New York 'to do' list, think I'll add the novel to my wish list, too.

  5. I enjoyed this book too.

    Silver's Reviews