Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review: Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Yellow Crocus
By Laila Ibrahim
Publisher: Flaming Chalice Press
Published: Jan. 14, 2011

Amazon Synopsis:

In 1837, Lisbeth Wainwright is born to the white mistress of a sprawling Virginia plantation. Seconds later, she is delivered into the arms of her black wet nurse, Mattie. For a field hand like Mattie, her transfer to the big house is supposed to be considered an honor—except that the move tears Mattie away from her beloved grandfather and her infant son, Samuel. But Mattie is a slave, with no say in the matter, and so she devotes herself to her master’s daughter, though she longs to be raising her own child. Growing 

up under Mattie’s tender care, little Lisbeth adopts the woman’s deep-seated faith in God, her love of music and black-eyed peas, and the tradition of hunting for yellow crocuses in the early days of spring. 

As the years pass, Lisbeth is drawn slowly back into her white parents’ world and begins to learn the ins and outs of life for a high-born young lady. Still she retains her connection to Mattie, befriending Samuel and drifting comfortably between the two worlds. She accepts her parents’ assertion that their slaves depend upon them for guidance and protection, yet that notion becomes more and more difficult to believe as she gains awareness of the inequality of life in the big house versus the slave quarters. When, on the threshold of her society wedding to debonair Edward Cunningham, Lisbeth bears witness to a shockingly brutal act, the final vestiges of her naivetĂ© crumble around her. Just twenty-one years old, she is forced to choose between what is socially acceptable and what is right, a decision that will change her life forever. 

This compelling historical novel chronicles young Lisbeth Wainwright’s coming-of-age during one of the most difficult chapters of American history. Lisbeth’s powerful bond with Mattie makes her loss of innocence in the face of society’s ugly secrets all the more heartbreaking, and yet it is the courage she learns from her stand in mother that enables Lisbeth to blaze a new path for herself. Yellow Crocus offers moving proof of how the greatest social change often blooms forth from small personal acts of love.

Book Links
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My Thoughts:

Yellow Crocus was a beautiful, touching historical novel that chronicles Lisbeth Wainwright’s life as she grows up in Virginia in the mid 1800’s and her relationship with her wet nurse Mattie. Under Mattie’s loving care, Lisbeth comes to adopt Mattie’s deep faith in God. This creates difficulties for Lisbeth as she becomes an adult and begins to understand more fully about the inequality of life between the negro and the white man.

Then, shortly before her wedding day she is shocked to find her fiancé involved in a compromising situation with one of the field hands and sees that the young girl is terrified. Confused and sickened, Lisbeth is heartbroken and must choose whether to marry Edward and agree that slavery is acceptable, or reject this marriage and choose what is right.

Yellow Crocus is a very compelling novel. The characters will bring you to tears and laughter. I thought that the main characters were quite well developed. You are able to see the close connection that Mattie and Lisbeth have developed with each other. While Mattie is devoted to and loves Lisbeth, she desperately longs to be with her own child and family in the slave quarters. Once Mattie is deemed “no longer required” for Lisbeth, it is very obvious that Lisbeth is much closer to Mattie than she is even to her own mother.

Ms. Ibrahim was able to show the glaring difference in realities between life as a negro, who was considered only “three-fifths of a man” thereby not “entitled to the same rights as Christians” and life as a white man, who would care and provide for the less fortunate through slavery. While the high-born society women refused to discuss it, as Lisbeth came to find out just before her wedding day, they really knew what many of the men were doing, and by not speaking up were condoning it.

I loved the courage that Lisbeth showed in making her decision and for her actions afterwards. Even her limited social interactions with the midwife Georgia Freedman showed courage as it must have broken her heart to remain so distant.

This was a very clean novel. There was no swearing or coarse language in it, and except for the one scene which was necessary to show the abuse of white owners over the slaves (which was not actually sexually descriptive) there was only the one suggestive scene.

I truly enjoyed Yellow Crocus. I thought this novel was well-paced, interesting, thoughtfully written with well-developed characters. If you enjoy historical novels, you will be sure to enjoy this one. I gave Yellow Crocus 5 stars out of 5.

Thank you to the author Laila Ibrahim for providing a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. A positive opinion was not required. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author:

My experiences in multiracial, developmental psychology provided ample fodder for the story of Mattie and Lisbeth. I was the founder and director of Woolsey Children's School where I had first hand experience loving children that were not my own. There are scenes in the book that were largely influenced interactions I had with children from Woolsey. As a birth doula I have the privilege to witness the intensity and joy of childbirth. You can see that my birth experiences are reflected in the novel as well. I recently started working as the Director of Children and Family Ministries at the First Unitarian Church in Oakland. I live in a small co-housing community in Berkeley, California, with my wonderful wife, Rinda, our amazing children, Kalin and Maya, and our crazy dogs, Bella and Lucie. Yellow Crocus is my first novel.

Author Links
Goodreads  *  Amazon  *  Website

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