Title: The Violets of March
Author: Sarah Jio
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
First line: “I guess this is it,” Joel said, leaning into the doorway of our apartment.
Reeling from her husband’s infidelity and their subsequent divorce, author Emily Wilson retreats to her Aunt Bee’s home on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound. She is looking to heal – and maybe find her way back into writing. What she finds is a red velvet diary, a family mystery, and a handsome neighbor. The diary was written by a woman named Esther, a woman who first lost her one true love, and then lost much more in trying to reclaim it. As Emily becomes immersed in Esther’s story, she begins to wonder why the diary is in her aunt’s home and what family secrets her aunt is keeping from her.
Reading The Violets of March made me homesick! I grew up in Skagit Valley, in the northwest corner of Washington State, and we used to camp on Puget Sound. I’ve only been on Bainbridge Island once, but Sarah Jio has perfectly captured the setting: the gray, rocky coast; the seaweed, salt-scented air; the sight of a ferry pulling away. I immediately understood why Emily chose her Aunt Bee’s home as a place to go to regroup and rediscover herself.
I like books that have dual storylines, but often I am more drawn into one storyline than the other. That was not the case with The Violets of March. While the very beginning started off a bit slow for me, as soon as Emily arrived on Bainbridge Island, I didn’t want to stop reading. I loved reading more of Esther’s story, trying to piece together who the characters in her story might be in the modern storyline. Her story was heart-breaking, but also demonstrated what pride and stubbornness can do to a relationship. And as much as I enjoyed Esther’s story, I never felt pulled away from it or hesitant to dive back in with Emily and her stoic, yet fiercely loving Aunt Bee; Bee’s best friend, Evelyn; the mysterious Henry; and the enigmatic artist, Jack.
At its heart, The Violets of March is a story of how secrets kept can resonate down through generations, causing ripples that the secret-keepers wouldn’t even begin to imagine. I loved reading as Emily discovered her family’s secrets, and as she discovered a way to move past her own grief.