Quirky, freckle-faced Annie May Parker, who believes in omens and spirits, is coming of age in the 1950s in central New York farm country, the middle sibling between a boy-crazy older sister and a lovable little brother in a family headed by a hard-working traditional widowed mother. Annie May discovers a trove of dusty journals in the attic of the family farm house that hold stories of the courage and deeds of daring of a diverse set of family ancestors whose spirits she is certain are watching over her.
Determined to make them proud she sets out to make her mark in the world. Just as she is about to begin a coveted teaching job a letter and photo arrive at the Parker household which forces Annie to choose between rescuing her family's ancestral heritage, an act that would take her half-way around the world to life she never would have imagined, or her budding career. In making that choice she is also forced to come to terms with a long-held love she never dared to admit.
Beautifully written, with ancestral tales charmingly intertwined throughout the major plot, The Lilac Bush is Blooming plumbs our deepest emotions and leaves us with memories of a farm family connected not only to their land and their heritage but most especially to each other.
All the downhome charm and appeal reminiscent of beloved Americana classics… a beautiful coming-of-age story... a heartwarming novel with a storyline and dialogue that flows smoothly and easily.... a richly textured work filled with likeable characters that leave us with memories of joy, sorrow, and love. Thoughts will remain of a solid, genuine family, connected not only to their land and historic heritage, but most importantly to each other.
....charmingly composed in purposely-unembellished prose while painting a heroine both believable and likeable… I have found myself entranced by the literary world encapsulated within the pages of The Lilac Bush is Blooming as I believe others will also enjoy the sophisticated character development upon welcoming Annie May and her family into your home.
Truly love-smitten people populate this heartwarming novel....an impressive first person approach for Surasky's latest novel.
The tone of this novel is eternally optimistic and Surasky has a penchant for detail…. the joy--and pride-- is infectious. A wholesome, lovingly written book with an historical bent and endearing characters.
Mama set up the table for breakfast. It was usually us kids who did that, but today was very special. The annual fair and circus was coming to Mayberry, a town of three thousand forty miles away, and we had to carefully pick what we would wear. It was our yearly chance to make an impression on the kids from bigger cities.
Not that the cities they hailed from were humungous, but they were way bigger than Mayberry. Mayberry was central to a lot of mid-sized cities, and anyway, the owner of the circus came from Mayberry. He never let the people from Mayberry forget how when he was a kid the other kids made fun of him because he was short and skinny and wore glasses. But, now he was tall and muscular, mostly due to his overcoming puberty and growing to a great height, but also because he had learned how to tumble and walk the high wire from the best performers he had found in Europe.
Caroline Ann, the oldest, known as Carrie, or Squirrel, mostly for her love of the hazelnuts we found along the nearby stream that ran behind our small orchards and fields that every spring held the seeds of our ever-changing cash crops, and depending on who was addressing her at the time, came bouncing down the old, creaky stairs of our hundred-year-old farmhouse in a swishy, navy taffeta gingham-checked skirt, a white peasant blouse, and a brilliant red satin bow which held back her thick, wavy, jet-black hair, which she considered her greatest asset, in a very perky pony-tail. She had just stopped short of winding it up and putting it in a French twist, a style Mama forbid because she thought it too sophisticated and too daring and too much like those trollops who wandered the streets at midnight in big cities who we had only heard about but never seen. We were certain that Mama had never seen them either, but she had long used them to scare us into submission when we wanted to stay out past eight or begged for a sleepover which all the kids from Mayberry indulged in.
Next came Georgie Boy, or John George, as Mama always called him. Being the youngest and the only boy in the family he was somehow more indulged, not really spoiled, because he had his chores to do like us girls, but he always felt he could be last to the table. He had carefully chosen his only pair of chinos, a cowboy belt of which he was very proud that he had gotten for his last birthday, a pair of cool sneakers which he had saved his meager allowance for, and a tee shirt which would rival the Marlboro man for macho.
Now that we were all assembled, Mama gazed out of the window.
“The lilac bush is blooming,” she said.
We didn’t answer, because this was a ritual Mama engaged in every spring when the robins returned to lay their eggs and the songbirds added their chirping to the early morning cock-a-doodle-do of our barn rooster. All reliable signs, but Mama gauged every spring by the lilac bush.
We children swiveled our heads, as if in unison, an annual habit we had formed to give Mama the impression that we found it as important as she did. We looked beyond the yellow checked chintz curtains framing the old paned window and out into the glorious sun-filled pasture next to the barn. True enough, the first blossoms were showing through the greenery of the bush. The most vibrant, deep purple we had ever seen. We had always agreed that their intensity was unrivaled.
Mama took a moment to admire its beauty, burst from a seedling she had nurtured that had somehow found its way to the back of the barn. And, its reliability. Then, she turned her attention to the old heavy iron stove that had been in the family for generations.
“Who wants buckwheat pancakes?”