Friday, February 1, 2013

Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverini

Sonoma Rose.  Jennifer Chiaverini. Penguin Group (USA). January 2013. 432 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 9780452298996.

Rosa Diaz Barclay is riddled with grief and fear, grief for the children she has lost from a mysterious disease and fear for the violent husband who beats her at the slightest whim.  But her troubles are about to become worse, far worse, before they get better.  A woman neighbor, Elizabeth, brings her two quilts and says she found them in a cabin.  One is the quilt that was made by her mother, the mother she had to reject on orders from her husband.  She knows the origin of the other quilt but must remain silent because of the secret it holds that could wind up in her final beating.  All of her fears are for nothing as her husband arrives home while Elizabeth is still there, and he reacts violently again.  This time she is severely hurt and must seek help, not only for herself but for two of her other children who also seem to have this mysterious illness.  Before she leaves, she makes an earth-shaking discovery of what her husband has been storing and quickly realizes its source.  The danger is huge for her as well!

Lars, an old romantic flame, appears at this hour of need and helps her.  Rosa’s husband, John, has gone too far and been arrested for violence and criminal activity.  Lars, Rosa and her children flee and wind up living with and working for a couple who are winemakers, a crime in Prohibition time America.  Federal agents however quickly figure out her connection and also realize she is living there under a false name.  As they continue to investigate and her husband finds out where she is, Lars and Rosa leave again, this time to Sonoma County in California.  Others believe Lars is her husband but no one suspects the real truth about Lars, not even the reader.  Rosa’s story is gradually revealed as her circumstances drive her away from her hometown and its past relationships.

The novel continues with Rosa’s discovery that she is capable of learning about viticulture and buying a vineyard of her own.  The challenges in this business are huge and constant, but Rosa proves to be more than a survivor and creates her own story of success which will blossom only with the end of Prohibition.

This is quite a different turn for Jennifer Chiaverini.  While “quilts” play a small part in the story, they are the motif of creating a new life that surrounds this moving story of turbulence and deep love of many kinds.  A remarkable historical novel!

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