Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners/ posted in: Book Review, Reading Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony
on October 16th 2018
Published by Park Row
A formidable matriarch learns the hard way that no family is perfect in this witty, sparkling debut novel
Dearest loved ones, far and near--evergreen tidings from the Baumgartners!
Violet Baumgartner has opened her annual holiday letter the same way for the past three decades. And this year she's going to throw her husband, Ed, a truly perfect retirement party, one worthy of memorializing in her upcoming letter. But the event becomes a disaster when, in front of two hundred guests, Violet learns her daughter Cerise has been keeping a shocking secret from her, shattering Violet's carefully constructed world.
In an epic battle of wills, Violet goes to increasing lengths to wrest back control of her family, infuriating Cerise and snaring their family and friends in a very un-Midwestern, un-Baumgartner gyre of dramatics. And there will be no explaining away the consequences in this year's Baumgartner holiday letter...
Full of humor, emotion and surprises at every turn, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners brings to life a remarkable cast of quirky, deeply human characters who must learn to adapt to the unconventional, or else risk losing one another. This is the story of a family falling to pieces--and the unexpected way they put it all back together.
I loved this book because I know Violet, or rather I know several Violets. These are women who will always tell you how their family is doing ever so well. They have a story for each member of the family to illustrate their points. If you know their offspring, you generally know that they are the local drug dealer and you are left wondering if their mother has ever met them at all. The other side of Violet is the control freak. She has the idea of her perfect family in her mind and you are NOT going to deviate from it. I might be descended from a person like this but I know better than to say that out loud because I’ve been well trained. She would vehemently deny being a control freak. She just knows what she wants and will passive-aggressively move everyone around until she gets everyone where she wants them. She can deny the existence of anything that mars this perfection. (There is a week in my life that my Violet refuses to acknowledge.) Yes, I know Violet and found even her most outrageous plans to be familiar. It was fun to laugh at it happening to someone else.
There are three mysteries in this book. Violet is obsessed with finding out who is the father of her grandchild. I found that mystery fairly easy to unravel. There is also the mystery of some political sculptures appearing around town and a mystery of what Violet’s friend’s husband is doing when he disappears for days. Those I didn’t figure out.
I tend not to read a lot of literary type fiction but this one was funny enough to me to keep my interest. Maybe you have to be Midwestern and know people like this to find it this funny. If you don’t you might think it is pretty over the top.