Where Blue Begins
By Janice Deaner
Signet Books, 1993
I love poking around in used book stores. Aside from the fact that these are tough economic times and it just plain feels good to buy a great book for a dollar or two, there’s the thrill of discovering something wonderful. You just never know what riches might lay at the bottom of those dusty stacks, hidden away in those shadowy corners. A couple of weeks ago on a visit to my favorite used book store, I found an absolute treasure in Where Blue Begins, by Janice Deaner. Written in 1993, it’s easy to see how I missed it the first time around. The early nineties were my crazy, busy years of trying to work, keep my house in order, and raise a toddler. I was lucky to shave both of my legs in one sitting, in 1993, let alone read a 464 page novel.
Told from the viewpoint of ten-year-old Maddie, Where Blue Begins is the story of a young girl’s desperate search to understand her world, herself, and her emotionally disturbed and highly secretive mother. The story opens in the summer of 1967, when the family relocates from Detroit to the rolling, peaceful hills of New York state. Despite their lovely surroundings, the family relationships soon begin to disintegrate. Maddie and her older sister, Elana, are desperate to understand their father, Leo, and his stifled passion for jazz music; their mother, Lana, and the terrible unnamed illness that hangs like a dark cloud above them all. Soon after the move, Maddie is befriended by Lizzie, a young mulatto girl whose home life is even more dysfunctional than her own. When the girls discover Lana’s journals hidden away in a box in the attic, they begin to piece together the shocking mystery of Lana’s illness and Maddie learns the hard way that some of life’s secrets are better left undiscovered.
It is rare that I come across a novel of this caliber. The writing was so powerful, and the story so compelling it seemed to wrap me in a warm embrace that I could not free myself from until the very last page was turned. The writing was lovely, flowing effortlessly from one unpredictable scene to the next with a cast of characters so deeply flawed and endearing that I cared about them like they were my own family. Janice Deaner is not merely a writer, but a true storyteller. Where Blue Begins is one of those books that will stay with me for a long, long time, if not forever.
Reviewed by Honeybee