A wife and mother escapes an abusive household in Meisels’ (Family at Booknook, 2009) emotionally complex sophomore novel.
After being beaten and locked in a closet by her barbaric husband, Marshall, Tulip Burns, a Ypsilanti, Michigan, waitress struggling to make ends meet, grabs her daughter and two young sons and flees to her friend Delilah’s home for refuge. Several violent standoffs with Marshall, an awkward moment with Delilah and an illicit affair with a married police officer force Tulip to make some difficult decisions, including finally divorcing her husband, buying a new truck and finding a new home for her children. Tulip soon purchases a dilapidated farmhouse in need of repairs. Her neighbors Grace O’Shay and her husband, Kirby, are ornery at first, but soon welcome Tulip and her children; they later comfort her bullied son. However, she finds that other neighbors take longer to warm up to her. Later, she discovers that Marshall has been enacting corporal punishment during his time with the children; meanwhile, she must also deal with the reappearance of her vicious brother, Calvin, fresh out of prison, in a subplot that feels underdeveloped and could’ve been excised completely. Still later, she confronts yet another major life change. As with Meisels’ debut, this novel focuses on family and is set in 1960s Michigan, and the author excels at portraying this place and time; her ambitious, busy story feels homespun and authentic. However, it ties up its various plot strands a bit too tidily, particularly after all the violence at the book’s outset; even Tulip and Marshall’s messy relationship gets a sort of resolution by the end. Overall, however, the novel profoundly illustrates the intimate, emotional “struggles and victories” of abused women.
An often moving story about resilience, determination and survival in the face of extreme adversity.