The Lost Flow­ers of Alice Hart

Holly Ring­land

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

House of Anansi (MARCH) Soft­cover $17.95 (400pp) 978-1-4870-0522-1

Holly Ring­land’s pi­quant de­but, The Lost Flow­ers of Alice Hart, is al­ter­nately airy and pre­cise. It oc­cu­pies a space some­where be­tween a fairy tale and a modern tragedy.

Alice is born by the sea­side. She drinks salt air and spends her days among flow­ers with her cooleyed, del­i­cate mother, who teaches her the lan­guage of blos­soms. She dreams about fire, too. Ac­cord­ing to an­cient myths, a con­fla­gra­tion may be the an­swer to her fa­ther’s mer­cu­rial moods.

Alice wants to make her iso­lated fam­ily’s few happy mo­ments last for­ever; in­stead, one hor­ri­fy­ing night strips every­thing she knows away. She ends up in the care of her un­fa­mil­iar grand­mother, a flo­ri­og­ra­pher who lives among a dif­fer­ent kind of Flow­ers—the lost women who gather at Thorn­field, the fam­ily’s farm.

Th­ese pages are awash in per­fumed im­ages—of petals and the sto­ries they tell; of red desert craters flush and ablaze with flow­ers and myths. In­di­vid­u­ally, any para­graph might prof­fer a synaes­thetic won­der; col­lec­tively, the novel is a dense, in­tox­i­cat­ing scrap­book of af­fect­ing no­tions.

But be­yond the beauty of flow­ers and their mean­ings (love for­saken; love con­cealed; fas­ci­na­tion, witch­craft) are raw fam­ily sto­ries: of abuse, mur­der, be­trayal, and loss. Even as peo­ple with un­canny monikers—there’s a Moss, a Rivers, and a Stone, not to men­tion the Harts—drift in and out of her life, Alice looks for some­thing true to hold on to.

Part of the book’s magic comes in its re­fusal to de­fine any event more than nec­es­sary. Ac­counts of heart­break are de­ci­sive, and bruises rise to the text’s aching sur­face, but oth­er­wise, the book could stand any­where, in any time, and among any peo­ple who are hurt­ing, as true.

The Lost Flow­ers of Alice Hart is a sen­ti­men­tal in the best pos­si­ble way. This story about fam­ily, love, and rein­ven­tion is de­fi­ant in its sweet­ness and is stir­ring to its end.

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