Where Lilacs Still Bloom, by Jane Kirkpatrick, is based on the true story of Hulda Klager, a German immigrant with a passion and God-given talent for hybridizing lilacs to form new varieties. Although her father doubted that a husband would support such a departure from the expected role of a housewife, Frank Klager and Hulda's entire family lent not only their support, but their physical labor to assist Hulda in her dream. While Hulda's life was not easy, facing regular flooding that threatened to destroy what she had invested so much of her life into, and outliving her family members, she took joy in the flowers and the skills God had given her and strove to use those talents and beauty to enrich the lives of everyone she came in contact with. Her generosity with her time, her talent, and her treasure touched thousands of lives, and in time, came back to her full-circle as others returned the love she had so generously dispensed.
I have read several of Jane Kirkpatrick's novels, and I have enjoyed them all. This one was no exception, although it did take me several tries to get invested in the story. The book employs several different viewpoints to complete the story, and I had trouble keeping them straight until I had read enough to become invested in the individual characters. Especially, because it isn't until late in the book that the stories begin to weave together. Having read the Author's Notes at the end of the book, I understand the purpose for including these additional fictional characters to enhance Hulda Klager's story, but it did take longer for me to understand where the story was going with them added in so early on in the book.
Once I got past the initial confusion, however, I really came to love Hulda. She was so driven and had so much passion for her flowers, yet was self-aware enough to see that her family needed her too. So many of us struggle with the balance of family versus work or hobbies, and Hulda recognized that her priorities may not have always been straight, and she worried that she was neglecting her family for the sake of her flowers. Yet, that very family worked hard to ensure that she could continue her work: weeding, planting, taking over house chores, rescuing the flowers from the floods, encouraging her to continue to stretch and grow, and celebrating her successes with her.
The love story of Frank and Hulda was so sweet. Hulda's father had told her not to share her passion with her husband, because he felt Frank would discourage her. Frank was honest in that he didn't want the flowers to take her away from him, yet did everything he could to aid her work. The simple things he did for her, (with no spoilers, for it was mostly the surprise of them that made them so sweet), demonstrated a pure, sweet love for his wife, and the partnership was a subtle yet enriching focus point for the story.
There is a lot of sadness in this book, and knowing that it's a true story makes it that much sadder. If you are a reader who doesn't like to cry with a story, then you probably don't want to try this one. But, even with the sadness, life goes on, and Hulda finds a way to continue living, and continues to find people and work worth living for.
I give this book 4 stars; once I got into the story, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I am certainly not a horticulturist, yet I found the story engaging.
This book by Jane Kirkpatrick was excellent as usual. Her work is so good and full of historical information which makes it even more interesting. She holds your interest. She is an excellent author. We have so many interesting places near us and I don't realize it until I have read about them in her books. This book was no exception. I always look forward to her next book.
I received "Where Lilacs Still Bloom" by Jane Kirkpatrick for free from bloggingforbooks.com. I chose this book because of the cover and lilacs are my favorite flower. This novel went waaaay more into lilacs than I thought it would. This is a book for garden lovers. I am more of a garden liker. It's a good book, but it is very horticultural. The book stars Hulda, a German immigrant who makes it her life's work to grow a beautiful garden better than originally intended. She starts with apples and making them crisper, then moves on to flowers, namely lilacs. She eventually creates 257 new types of lilacs. Her main goal is to have a creamy white with 12 petals. Kirkpatrick follows Hulda's life while life happens and she creates life in her garden. The part that surprised me and impressed me the most was how she always thought her garden was just a little thing, but no one else ever did. No one told her it was silly, stupid, or not worthwhile. The only argument she got was when a local man accused her of playing with God's plan. Hulda is a true story and it is a very impressive story. She is a hero of her time. A time when woman weren't considered valuable, she did what was exceptional. She never let society stop her from doing what she loved. I like that.
Fans of historical fiction and flowers (especially lilacs) will adore this book!
This fictional story is based on the real life of Hulda Klager, who immigrated to America as a young child from Germany in 1865. I was amazed at how much I learned from reading this book, and was surprised that I had never heard of Hulda prior to this story. Hulda Klager experimented as a hybridizer, while raising a family. She spent hours carefully tending her precious lilacs, who were her "second family" and sometimes took precedence over humans.
I was amazed at just how ahead of her time she appeared to be and how brilliant she was, though she never had a formal education in science or botany. I did feel sorry for her family at times, while reading this story, because her zeal and passion for science sometimes overshadowed her relationships. Though her husband obviously felt neglected at times in this story, I thought it was sweet how he tried to support her and even surprised her by helping her obtain some of her most expensive plants. Hulda went on to create many varieties of lilacs, earning herself the title of "The Lilac Lady".
This would make an excellent read for anyone interested in science, botany and famous women in history. The author even has some authentic Hulda Klager lilacs in her own garden! A fantastic story of dedication and perserverance, blending interesting facts, characters and relationships. I highly recommend it!
The endearing and captivating prose of Jane Kirkpatrick vividly brings to life the whimsy of lilacs and the lives that they inspired in this story of love, loyalty, faith, friendship, and flowers. The novel follows the path of Hulda, of German descent, raising her family during the early 1900's in Washington State. Cross breeding plants was Hulda's passion, and she enjoyed bringing her family into her flowery dreams of improved apples, lilacs and daffodils.
The story is not all about Hulda, however. It reaches for a saga type nuance by bringing in new characters, such as Shelly and Bill Snyder in Baltimore, and Shelly's overbearing mother-in-law. Flowers are incorporated their story, too. The neighbor girls, their families, and Hulda's daughters all bring new characters to add to the all-encompassing feel of togetherness and community. And there was Fritz, the most loyal and dear son a mother could hope for.
And of course there is Hulda's husband Frank, who had an endearing way of say ""I submit" often. After horses trampled Hulda's precious garden, Frank empathized but said "But you'll make lemonade of it, after all, I submit. Yes, indeed, that's what I submit."
Imagery and metaphors - such as walking on lily pads when speaking to someone who was grieving for a loved one - graced the pages, and the spirit of Hulda's passion shone with glistening hope as I read and devoured this story. There is no way my simple words can express the level of emotion I felt while reading this story, which was fraught with ups and downs of a family, from happy moments to tragic events all happening to Hulda as she strove for that perfect creamy white twelve petal lilac. The story of Hulda Klager touched my soul as I cried during the floods and the deaths that Hulda had endured during her very long life. Touching upon the questions of faith versus nature versus God's creation, the tone of the book was such that I could not put it down. Where Lilacs Still Bloom is the epitome of a page turner.
Most of all refreshing and touching, Hulda was indeed a real person, and the author brilliantly brought this special person back to life. I was so enamored with the story that I wept right along with Hulda, just as if she were my own grandmother. I would be remiss if I didn't pay homage to the lilac: the fragrance of the flower that I can still recall after leaving behind my lilac bush seventeen years ago. I still think of that very lilac bush from time to time. I wish the lilac would bloom in Texas, but I will have to settle for the memories, which will now include this fantastic and mesmerizing novel.
With both historical details and factual details regarding flowers, Where Lilacs Still Bloom incorporates many elements which makes it indescribable. This book goes to top of my list as the Best of 2012. I can hardly contain myself as I want to go and buy all of Jane Kirkpatrick's books immediately. Where to begin?!
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this honest review. I thank them wholeheartedly for this amazing experience.