Book Review – Roses

Book Review

Leila Meacham

With 2012 beginning, I made a resolution to not make resolutions.  Instead, I have chosen to endeavor to complete projects.  Somehow that seems a little more doable than a resolution.  Yeah-yeah…it’s all semantics and it’s just a word game I’m playing with myself, but there ya have it.
This year, my primary endeavor is to finally make a dent in the stacks upon stacks of books I’ve collected over the years; books I just had to have right at the exact moment that I purchased them, and have since then waited patiently on book shelves or in boxes for me to finally pick them up and do more than examine their covers.
With this endeavor in mind, I selected a book from my shelf that was purchased nearly two years ago.  I remember exactly where I was and the specific circumstances that led to its purchase, and I remember how excited I was to bring it home and get started on it.  I was in the midst of another book or series at the time, and so I lovingly placed it on my book shelf where it has waited patiently these last two years to be remembered.  That book was Roses by Lelia Meacham.
When I think of the many disappointing books I’ve selected to read since then, while this one gathered dust on my bookshelf, I could kick myself.  How many times have I gone in search of a really excellent read only to bypass this masterpiece of fiction on my bookshelf?  
Spanning nearly a full century, Roses is the story of three families in a small East Texas town.  Descended from French Nobility and the English Houses of York and Lancaster – famous for the 16th Century “War of Roses” – the three families are bonded by their trek across America in search of land in the new country, and become the new aristocracy in the small Texas town.   As they arrive in what would become Howbutker, Texas, they set aside the segregation of the their family roses and blend the roses to have new meaning that would become tradition for their future families, and would be passed down for generations.   A red rose would signify the asking of forgiveness, a white rose would signify that complete forgiveness has been granted, and a pink rose signifies that no forgiveness would be forthcoming.  No words would need to be spoken; simply the exchanging of the appropriate rose would convey the entire message.  And so began the story of the Tolliver, DuMont and Warwick families.
Reviews of this book have boasted its similarity to Gone with the Wind, but I find those reviews to be not only overly generous, but completely unfair.  How can you compare a book to Gone with the Wind without setting an unfair expectation for the reader?  Those who love the original will be satisfied with nothing less, and still others will be expecting a certain style of writing and overall plot.  While there are certainly similarities between the two books, Roses doesn’t need to be compared to Mitchell’s classic in order to be loved and endure the test of time.  It will stand on its own as a masterpiece of a family saga.
While Roses spans several generations, the primary focus of the book is on Mary Tolliver and the inheritance of her family’s cotton plantation she receives from her father upon his death.   This inheritance – which excluded her mother and older brother – would change the life of not only Mary, but her relationships with her mother and brother, and eventually will define her relationships with her dearest friends in the world, Ollie DuMont and Percy Warwick. 
Roses is beautifully written and was impossible for me to put down.  Though it exceeded 600 pages in length, I was never once bogged down by details or felt the need to skim a few pages to “get to the point.”  In fact, as the book drew to a close, I was sad to see it end.
The unwavering love, friendship, and forgiveness between the Tollivers, DuMonts and Warwicks were beautifully imagined and written, and they will not soon be forgotten.  Without a doubt, this will be one of the top five books I’ll read in 2012.  What a great way to start the new year!  
This book is available in standard format through the library, or through downloadable audio format for electronic devices.  

~ Catherine H. Armstrong

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