Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Review of Mulberry, by Paulette Boudreaux (Paulette is the author, not the reviewer!)

One of the things that I love about living here in the Bay Area is getting so many opportunities to meet local authors.  In this case, I went to the opening event of this year's Silicon Valley Reads.  I was meeting my son, Josh, there.  He is on the community board for the SVR organization.  When I got there, he was standing with 2 people.  One of them was Paulette Boudreaux, the author of Mulberry.  Although it doesn't happen in every case, I usually try to read books written by authors that I have met - especially those of the local variety!

That brings you up to date.  And boy am I glad I met Paulette.  Her book, Mulberry, is really good and grabbed me on page 1.  It's that rare combination of literary but very readable (kind of like Pat Conroy).  And her writing is extremely visual.  I'll get to some examples in a minute.  First, here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Mulberry is a gripping and beautifully written tale of family crisis and personal strength that focuses on Maddy, an eleven-year-old girl struggling to keep herself and her three younger brothers, afloat in small-town segregated Mississippi in the early 1960s.

Okay, here are some examples of how visual her writing is:

1.  "'Oh, yeah,' she said, gazing out through mulberry leaves braised by the late August sun."
2.  "...but I also felt slow-growing anger.  The feeling curled inside, whipping around like a lizard's tail."
3.  While watching her house on fire - "There was something glorious but pitiful about being singled out by a fire."
4.  "The neighbors parted away from my brothers and me like a receding wave, exposing us like minnows washed ashore."
5.  "She stood over me now, her thick, well-fed body like a cotton bale on legs..."
6.  I won't quote a long paragraph here, but just go to page 230 and read about a fight between Miss Glenda and Mrs. Hazel.  You will feel like you are watching them in person.

There are a million examples.  In fact #3 and #4 came from the same page!  Pretty impressive, don't you think?  As we all know, a book is more enjoyable when you can "see" what's happening.  The other impressive element of Mulberry comes from something Barry Eisler said at his launch.  This really stuck with me.  He said that he "gets to know" his characters before he worries about the plot details.  I never could understand why I connected with the protagonists in some books and not in others.  And in many cases, I have connected with protagonists in books with mostly local exposure and didn't connect with those in nationally prominent books (sorry, but The Girl on the Train is definitely one of the latter!).  I get it now.  Paulette obviously worked on getting to know her characters, because I connected with all of them.

In case you haven't figured this out, I highly recommend that you read Mulberry.  And in case you want to meet Paulette, buy a book, and get it signed, she will be out in front of Recycle Books in Campbell on Sunday morning, May 1, from 9:15:-12:15.  (I'm also working on having her be our RBC author for June.  Fingers crossed.)


  1. Literary and readable is a rare combination indeed. You've made this sound fantastic. Lucky you to have met the author.

  2. One of these days, I would like to have a "conversation" about the area you live in and your author population. I don't know what that's like outside of the Bay Area.

  3. I love visual writing. You feel like you're in the story.