Book Review: The Blackberry Bush

The Blackberry Bush
Published By: Summerside Press
Release Date: June 1, 2011
Buy it at Amazon
Source: Provided by Author
Audience: Young Adult, Adult

This book was very hard for me to rate because there were some aspects of it that I loved and some aspects that were extremely frustrating. I waffled between 3 and 4 so this is probably more of a 3.5 read for me. The Blackberry Bush follows the twisted family history of Kati and Josh, who are born on the exact same day in 1989 as the Berlin Wall is crumbling. I love the concept behind this book that our lives are more connected to others than we will ever know or understand. We all have a greater purpose in life. Following Kati and Josh through their lives and seeing how they affected others was an interesting concept.

However, I had trouble liking Kati and Josh at times. During the segments of the book that focused on their teen and early adult years, I didn't like either character. It almost felt like Housholder was making these characters so broken that their redemption in the end would be more poignant. I get that, but as a reader I wanted someone I could root for through the whole book. It also felt to me like these kids were being punished for the sins of the adults in previous generations.

In spite of not always liking the two main characters, I did enjoy the segments of the book devoted to Walter, Nellie, and Adri. As someone who holds a BA in History, I tend to gravitate toward historical elements in stories. I also felt like the sections of the novel that focused on their love affair were some of the most well written in the book. I also loved the varying settings in the book - California and various European locales are featured. I truly appreciated the maps and genealogy charts in the front of the book. However, I did find it tiresome at times to keep referring back to them to figure out who was linked to whom and how.

I also enjoyed looking for the blackberry bushes throughout the novel. It became like a game for me to see where they would crop up next. The symbolism of the blackberry bush is one that is prevalent throughout history - particularly religious history. For me, the blackberry bush became a symbol of basic human nature dictating the choices of the characters. Housholder includes in his interview at the end of the novel his reasoning for using this symbol to drive the plot. 

One major thing I was frustrated with in this novel was Angelo. He pops up throughout the novel to explain story elements that the characters themselves don't know or can't understand. While he was useful in helping me piece together story elements, I found his sections to be distracting. They pulled my mind away from the story and I found myself being agitated whenever he would pop up and disturb the flow. 

Another thing that frustrated me was all of the bouncing around in the story. One minute I am with Josh in 2011 and the next I am with Kati in 2031. I felt like I only got snapshots of who these people were and wasn't allowed to spend enough time with them in any decade or setting. I feel that the book would have been a more enjoyable read for me if I had felt like I was getting to know the characters instead of passing by them as I hurried to the next scene. It just gave the book a rushed feel. 

Finally, I was frustrated with the ending. It seemed more rushed than other elements. There are going to be more books using these characters and perhaps that explains the structure of this book, but I didn't feel a sense of resolution when I got to the end. 

Overall, this was a good read and David Housholder is a strong writer. I would recommend this book to people interested in religious symbolism, Christian fiction, or those interested in reading about generational histories. This would also be a great book to use in a bible study group. There are many elements that could lead to interesting discussion topics amongst members.

One Last Gripe: I didn't like that Kati and Josh had few adult role models. They each had at least one loving grandparent and Josh's mother seemed like a wonderful woman, but they both were left lacking overall. Perhaps this can explain many of the choices they made in their lives. I just hate to see kids have to struggle without support at home. This probably stems from the fact that I grew up in a loving home with parents who guided me and supported me.

My Favorite Thing About The Book: The WWII elements

First Sentence: Think for a moment.

Favorite Character: Adri

Least Favorite Character: Kati

Two babies—Kati and Josh—are born on opposite sides of the world at the very moment the Berlin Wall falls. You'd think such a potent freedom metaphor would become the soundtrack for their lives, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Despite his flawless image, Josh, an artistic and gifted California skateboarder, struggles to find his true role in the world, and his growing aggression eventually breaks him.

Kati, a German with a penchant for classic Swiss watches and attic treasure-hunting, is crushed with disappointment for never being “enough” for anyone—most especially her mother.

Craving liberation, Kati and Josh seem destined to claim their birthright of freedom together. After all, don't the “chance” encounters transform your life…or are they really chance?