Friday, September 6, 2013

Orchid House by Cindy Martinusen

Julie Morrison accompanies her grandfather's body back to Hacienda Esperanzo (Plantation of Hope) in the Philippines, the family land he had loved so much but was forced to leave during political unrest years before.  Emotionally shaken after her former boyfriend tries to make amends, Julie hopes this trip will give her the space and time she needs to re-evaluate her future.  Will it include Nathan or not?
Soon she is swept into life at the hacienda - the beauty of the islands, the enormity of the family land's and the responsibility that she now faces, as well as the joy of getting to know her distant, colorful family.  As she learns the history of the family's lost orchids, she also learns why those who live and work on the hacienda consider her grandfather a hero, even though he has been absent for decades.
While Julie begins to feel a natural peacefulness in her new surroundings, she remains ignorant of the political turmoil and danger that she faces.  An erupting volcano adds even more drama.

There were parts of this book that I really liked and parts that I wished had drawn me in more.  I like books set in exotic places, especially ones which have a "history"  and culture to unravel, and for the most part, this book delivers in this category.  There are stories of long ago loves and strong women, and even stories about food.  I like stories with unusual characters, and here too, Orchid House delivers, especially in the three Lolas who are the vehicles for revealing much of the hacienda's history and young Emman, who takes it upon himself to be Julie's bodyguard.  It was the "villians" of the book, the disenchanted guerrilla fighters, and their actions that I felt fell flat. I guess what transpires makes sense (although it is sad), but I just felt the whole antagonist part of the novel was weaker than the "Julie" side of the plot.

I obtained this title through interlibrary loan, along with Salt Garden, a title which Martinusen received a Christy award for in 2004.  I'll be reading Salt Garden over the next week.  Hopefully, I'll be able to give that title a total thumbs up!!

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