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"A riveting and mind-opening experience."
   —LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)

"With this spellbinding debut, Meldrum marks herself as an author to watch."
   —KIRKUS (starred review)

"There is much to ponder in this enthralling achievement from a debut author."
   —BOOKLIST (starred review)

"Theology is on trial in this extraordinary first novel..."
   —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)

Full reviews and more

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The secrets of the past meet the shocks of the present. Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language—but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be.

When Aslaug's mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mother's death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaug's birth. About what she should do next.

About whether divine miracles have truly happened. And whether, when all other explanations are impossible, they might still happen this very day.

Addictive, thought-provoking, and shocking, MADAPPLE is a page-turning exploration of human nature and divine intervention—and of the darkest corners of the human soul.

See the full jacket art here. Artist: Jonathan Barkat

Knopf/Random House, hardcover, May 2008, ISBN: 978-0-375-85176-6
Knopf/Random House, paperback, March 2010, ISBN-13: 9780375851773

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Book Groups

  • A PEN USA Literary Award Finalist
  • A William C. Morris Award Finalist
  • An ALA Best Book
  • A Booklist Editors' Choice
  • A Kirkus Best Book
  • A Vanity Fair Hot Type pick
  • A Chicago Tribune Hot Summer Read

"In debut novelist Christina Meldrum's mesmerizing literary mystery, Madapple (Knopf), the worlds of science and faith collide."
   —Vanity Fair

"The haunting tale of one exceptionally disturbed family unfolds in this gripping page-turner. Locked away from the world behind heavy drapes in a house with no mirrors, Aslaug Hellig grew up with her intelligent and overbearing mother Maren, who had told her that she was the product of immaculate conception. Though extremely knowledgeable about the local flora and other bookish pursuits, Aslaug is veritably clueless in social situations. When Maren dies suddenly, Aslaug's world shatters. Alone and frightened, she goes to stay with her estranged aunt and cousins until their suspicious demise. As the narrative moves between her trial for murder in the present and the past that led up to it, the Helligs' shocking truth is slowly revealed. Though Aslaug's situation is hardly conventional, the author does a spectacular job of making the unbelievable credible. A markedly intelligent offering mixing lush descriptions of plants, history, science and religion, this should surely spark interest among a wide array of readers. With this spellbinding debut, Meldrum marks herself as an author to watch."
   —KIRKUS (starred review)

"[A] beautiful, unusual novel...will haunt readers long after they have finished the book."
   —KIRKUS (MADAPPLE is being featured in Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2008 special edition, "First Fiction: 35 Promising Debuts."

Madapple QA "Theology is on trial in this extraordinary first novel, which alternates between courtroom transcripts and a first-person account by the heroine, Aslaug, prosecuted for murders allegedly committed when she was 15. Carefully peeling back the facts entered in court, Meldrum lyrically describes Aslaug's isolated upbringing by the solitary Maren, a Danish polymath who educates Aslaug in science and languages—and in the medicinal value of the plants they collect near their Maine home...The author's timing is impeccable: her courtroom revelations advance the narrative while altering readers' perceptions of events, and Aslaug's ruminations force readers to question all they take in. Audiences will need some intellectual mettle for the densely seeded ideas, but they won't be able to stop reading."
   —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)

"Aslaug lives in isolation; the flowers and plants that her mother, Maren, uses to make their lives possible are more real to her than the outside world. Then Maren dies, and Aslaug makes her way to the nearby Maine town, where she finds her Aunt Sara and teenage cousins Susanne and Rune. Aslaug hopes they will have a clue to her father's identity; she learns, as readers already have, that Maren proclaimed Aslaug a virgin birth. Aunt Sara, a charismatic preacher, wants none of this. But Susanne, enthralled with the writings of esoteric religionists and pagans, believes this is a possibility, and Rune is enthralled with Aslaug herself. Then Aslaug finds herself pregnant, and divine intervention is once more a possibility. Plot summary does little justice to this haunting book, which is as much mysticism as it is story. Meldrum plunges deeply into the nature of reality. She uses language in a particularly arresting way, and the leaves and petals of the plants that are so much a part of Aslaug's life shimmer over the pages. If all this wasn't satisfaction enough, Meldrum, a litigator, mixes faith and science with a solid mystery, told in the transcripts of a trial in which Aslaug is the defendant. There is much to ponder in this enthralling achievement from a debut author."
   —BOOKLIST (starred review)

"Fast paced and suspenseful, Meldrum's novel deftly and subtly maintains tension by judiciously revealing key plot points... Deep examination of religion and science and how they intersect pervade the text in an exploratory and informative way. The inclusion of rape and poisoning lends darkness and weight to Aslaug's already intense experience. Filled with herbal imagery and nomenclature, the descriptions, both beautiful and surprising, paired with the expert control of pacing, make for a riveting and mind-opening experience."
   —LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)

"Former litigator and amateur botanist Christina Meldrum has written an utterly unique debut destined to become a cult classic for teens and adults. Madapple tells the story of Maren Hellig and her 16-year-old daughter Aslaug, who live off the land in rural Maine, foraging for wild plants that nourish them physically and spiritually. The pair's mysterious existence is laid bare when Aslaug has to stand trial for her mother's murder, making Madapple a strange brew that simultaneously provokes and mesmerizes the reader."
   —AMAZON (selected in August as one of the "Best Books of 2008...So Far")

"Hot Summer Reads...Exquisite myth of a girl who grows up in isolation and, when her mother dies, must contend with the odd convictions of a strange world."

"[A]n ambitious, often haunting debut, a unique meditation on language, rationality and faith."
   —SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (read the full review here)

" at once a stylized yet gripping mystery, a courtroom drama, an exploration of the conflict between science and religion, and a tale of a young girl coming of age through suffering, rebirth and redemption."
   —MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL (read the full review here)

"In a stellar debut novel that explores the nexus between the natural world and the spiritual realm, Meldrum spins a mesmerizing story about a sixteen-year-old girl, Aslaug, who believes she was born of a virgin. Raised in a reclusive and restrictive environment, homeschooled by her eccentric Danish mother, Aslaug learns several languages and lots of herbology but very little about common school subjects and nothing at all about the religious texts that her mother pores over. When her mother dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances, Aslaug leaves her small Maine community to live with her aunt, who is running a Pentecostal church in a nearby town. As dark family secrets are revealed, the tension escalates; eventually, a fire destroys the church, claiming the lives of her aunt and cousin, and Aslaug is the chief suspect. Her account of events, rich in lyricism and imagery, is juxtaposed with spare courtroom transcripts. The interplay between the two narratives is particularly effective at foreshadowing and generating suspense, while the stimulating exploration of religion and mythology adds thematic depth. j.h."
   —THE HORN BOOK (May/June)

"Fans of television's "Lost" will be intrigued by Christina Meldrum's first novel. I found myself re-reading sections for clues."
   —The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Christina Meldrum has written a devastating, gut-wrenching, compelling and thoughtful story. The amount of research that must have been put into the sections on herbology and botany alone confound me. There are deep discussions of religion and faith, along with language and science. The characters are all broken but fierce, and I found myself loving and hating them in equal measure. Readers need to buy into the story, but once there, will not be able to put this book down. I have not come across a book as astounding as Madapple in a very long time."
   —Booktopia (read the full review here)

"A beautifully written novel... Christina Meldrum writes atmospherically, and she beautifully portrays her characters, peeling away the layers of the onion until we see their very core. With a page-turning plot that will keep you up long past midnight, Madapple will stick in your mind long after you have finished reading it."
   —Mrs. Magoo Reads (read the full review here)

"...This brilliant, densely written amalgamation of botany, religion, murder mystery, courtroom drama and dark family secrets is the twisted brainchild of newbie author Christina Meldrum. Now, I read a LOT of YA fiction, and this one stopped me dead in my tracks with its utter bizarreness. So if you want a challenging read that's so far off the beaten track it's practically in the MILKY WAY, dig up Madapple at your local library or bookstore May 2008."
   —Reading Rants (read the full review here)

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About the Book
Sample Chapter (PDF)
Madapple Q & A
Book Group Information
Internet Resources