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It’s the lilacs I’m worried over. My Favorite and Delia and City of Kalama, and so many more; my as yet unnamed double creamy-white with its many petals is especially vulnerable.
I can’t find the seeds I set aside for it, lost in the rush to move out of the rivers’ way, get above Woodland’s lowlands now underwater. So much water from the double deluge of he Columbia and the Lewis. Oh, how those rivers can rise in the night, breaching dikes we mere mortals put up hoping to stem the rush of what is as natural as air: water seeping, rising, pushing, reshaping all within its path.
I watch as all the shaping of my eighty-five years washes away.
My only surviving daughter puts her arm around my shoulder, pulls me to her. Her house is down there too, water rising in her basement. We can’t see it from this bluff.
“It’ll be all right, Grandma. We’re all safe. You can decide later what to do about your flowers,” my grandson Roland tells me.
“I know it. All we can do now is watch the rivers and pray no one dies.”
How I wish Frank stood beside me. We’d stake each other up as we did through the years. I could begin again with him at my side. But now uncertainty curls against my old spine, and I wonder if my lilacs have bloomed their last time.
Food for Thought
Daffodils as yellow as the sun, ruby tulips, and a row of purple lilacs from the old country border the house I live in with my husband, Frank, our three young children (ages eight, five, and three), and next month, if all goes well, our fourth child. We are hoping for a boy. My parents live with us, but only for a few more months. They’ve built a new house near Woodland, Washington. We’ll be moving too, to a farm of our own south of Whelan Road. We’ll still be within a few miles of each other, a close-knit family of German Americans captured by this lush landscape between the Lewis and Columbia Rivers. We call where we live the Bottoms. It’s made up of black soil that was once the bottom of those great rivers—and sometimes becomes so again with the floods. We hope our new places will be less prone to flooding, though it’s the nature of rivers to rise with the spring thaws. We live with it.
My mother and children have dug daffodil and dahlia bulbs, snipped lilac starts to plant, and my sisters and brother and neighbors will give us sprouts from their bushes once we move, which is the custom. A lilac says “Here is a place to stay,” and how perfect that such promise of permanence should come from family and friends?
We can’t move the apple orchard. But I wielded my grafting knife and wrapped the shoots, scions they’re called, in sawdust and stored them in the barn earlier this year when the trees were dormant. Today I’ll graft them onto saplings at my parents’ new house, so one day there’ll be an apple orchard there. I’ve also stepped into the uncommon for a simple house Frau: I’ve grafted a Wild Bismarck apple variety known for its crispness with a Wolf River, an apple of a larger size.
My father encouraged such dappling with nature—and that I keep my efforts quiet, at least for a time.
It was April, and we tied the scions onto the saplings he’d started as soon as he knew they’d be building the house. I
liked working with my father in the orchard, a misty rain giving way to sunbreaks, and the aroma of cedar and pine drifting down from the surrounding hills in the shadow of Mount St. Helens. So much seems possible in such vibrant landscapes. A garden is the edge of possibility.
He was a great storyteller and advice giver, my father, though this day his story surprised. “Don’t tell Frank right away,” he told me. “Let him think you’re just grafting plain old apples to help us extend the orchard.”
“Frank wouldn’t mind.”
“In time—when you have the final result in hand. But Frank discourages you. I see it, Hulda.” I pushed at my frizzy walnut-brown hair and stared at him. “He dismisses your interests if they go beyond your children and him.”
“It’s a woman’s duty to meet her family’s needs.”
“Meet their needs first. But you want a crisper, bigger apple too,” he said. “Nothing wrong with that.”
“I do. I get so annoyed at those mealy things that hang on to their peels like bark to a tree.”
He nodded. “Some would say that meddling with nature isn’t wise. Frank might agree—especially if the one meddling is a mother who should be content with looking after her family.”
I stood, using my hoe to help me and my burgeoning belly up. I was nearly as tall as my father. He liked Frank; at least I always thought he did. My love and admiration for both men were rooted deep. It felt strange to defend my husband to my father. “You’re wrong, Papa.” I pushed my pointy straw hat back. “Frank’s a good helpmate for me. And he’ll like having more pies.”
My father tied another scion onto a branch, making sure the cambium was fully covered in the slanted cut I’d made so the two would bond securely. “You have a gift, Hulda. You can see distinctive things in plants. You see the possibility,
like a crisper, larger apple and then imagine it into being.” He lifted another scion as emphasis. “Those are gifts few have, and people can be envious.”
My father had never granted me such a compliment, and I was both pleased that he noticed and humbled that he shared it. “Not Frank,” I insisted.
“Not everyone understands that we are all created to have complicated challenges and dreams. We must honor our longings, then go beyond them whether others support us or not.”
I wondered if he spoke of my mother. Did she resent my father’s dreams that took us from Germany to Wisconsin,
Minnesota, San Francisco, then back to Wisconsin, and then here to the Lewis River of the new state of Washington? My father had many longings: farming, becoming a brewmaster, investing in creameries and cheese factories before the landscape was dotted with cows. He’d done all those. Now logging interested him, and he’d built a big two-story house; yet another adventure that meant more change for my mother—and the rest of us too.
“My dream is to raise my family.” I didn’t see getting a crisper apple as any budding desire. I wasn’t rising beyond my station. “These apples will make life better for them.” I was merely an immigrant housewife wanting to save time peeling apples.
“Just think of what I’ve said.” He wrapped his big paw around my hand that was holding a scion. He looked me in the eye. I swallowed. “Huldie, don’t deny the dreams. They’re a gift given to make your life full. Accept them. Reach for them. We are not here just to endure hard times until we die. We are here to live, to serve, to trust, and to create out of our longings.”
“Yes, Papa,” I said, but it wasn’t until after he was gone, years later, that I came to understand what I’d committed to.
Posted June 1, 2012
The book Where Lilac Still Blooms by Jane Kirkpatrick is a great read for this summer. This book surprised me, maybe because I really had no expectations of what it was going to be. I really enjoyed it. This is a book of fiction but is based on a real life of Hulda Klager. Hulda’s hobby becomes one that causes controversy in her day and age because she was a head of her time. Hulda is an inspiration to me in that way. Hulda starts her life in Germany and moves to the states to find herself in Woodland Washington. She has a passion for gardening and she is on a quest to make the perfect apple for her pies. What I love about this story is that Hulda is so giving and she sees beauty in each seed and each plant. I have just started gardening and wish I have just half her knowledge. I love that even in this time in history when women were homemakers and did not work her husband Frank supported her and say her gift. I loved that she made several new breeds of lilacs and shared her plants and her faith. Now this book did take me a while to get into but I am glad I read it. The story has caused a stir in me it has not left me. I have been researching Hulda in real life. This book is a great read for those who like gardening, biography style writing, and history. I give this book 4 stars. I did receive this complimentary copy from Water Brook Multnomah Publishing Group for my honest opinion.
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Posted January 18, 2013
I love all Janes books I am a loyal fan. This one is one of her best.
Don't miss this book and get her others and you will to fall inlove with reading again like I did.
Posted August 14, 2012
I had never heard of Hulda Klager before I picked up Where Lilacs Still Bloom, but after reading it, I will never forget her. Hulda was a no excuses kind of woman, full of life and ahead of her time, and Jane Kirkpatrick makes her come to life with a garden of descriptive and colorful words on each page, (no matter if those colors are bright or monochromatic). I believe that no matter who you are and what you know, you can do anything you put your mind to - and that is what I love about Hulda, she yearns to create even when things come crashing down around her. Her story is not completely unique - many people who change the world are told no to begin with - but it's the way in which it is told that pulls readers in and makes Hulda real. Her story is truly inspiring and her passion for life is evident. The plot-line was slow to start, but as I moved through the book I was not bothered by the pace. I liked how Jane Kirkpatrick created characters around the life of this one-of-a-kind woman, adding to the level of emotion that the text maintained. Very touching and readable format-wise, with few grammatical errors. The first person versus third person dialogue was well-written and fit nicely with the novel's structure. The hybridizing of the flowers was interesting to me as well - but I am a bit of a biology geek. Overall, I enjoyed this heartwarming story, and hope to read more of Jane Kirkpatrick's novels in the future.
Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)
*** I received this book from the author (Blogging for Books) in exchange for and honest and unbiased review.
Posted July 22, 2012
“Beauty matters... God gave us flowers for a reason. I think so we’d pay attention to the details of creation and remember to trust Him in all things big or little, no matter what the challenge. Flowers remind us to put away fear, to stop our rushing and running and worrying about this and that, and for a moment have a piece of paradise right here on earth. God offers healing through flowers and brings us closer to Him.”
Where Lilacs Still Bloom is an historical fiction book based on the life of German immigrant, Hulda Klager. She is a farm wife with only an eighth grade education, but she sees plants, especially flowers, as they could be with “bigger blooms, hardier stalks, richer color, and finer fragrance.” Her father first sees her passion and encourages her. “Don’t deny the dreams. They’re a gift given to make your life full. Accept them. Reach for them. We are not here just to endure hard time until we die. We are here to live, to serve, to trust, and to create out of our longings.” Hulda tries to balance her love and commitment to her husband and four kids while she quietly strives toward her first goal of a better apple. However she realized that dreams are better when shared and there begins an amazing story of faith and family, losses and restoration... and a lilac with twelve petals.
I really enjoyed this book by Jane Kirkpatrick. She let us know right up front which characters where historical and which where there to let the readers see Hulda’s humble character, her compassion for people, and her pleasure at freely sharing her knowledge and her plants. There was so much in this book - beauty, pain, joy, loss with many lessons or advice tucked in between the stories told...
Life lessons: “God knew that we’d need beauty and fragrance to help us through the difficult days so He gave us flowers and let us learn on our own how their cycle of living and dying is like a garden rhythm, giving us hope each spring.”
Marriage advice: “A husband needs his partner to take pleasure in his interests, to know that he provides. Her generosity of spirit adds to his confidence and to her own security.”
Parenting advice: Kids need to know “that their parents love each other. The best gift we could ever give them... That and a good time with us all together in one place.”
Now enjoy an amazing story and be inspired to plant, cultivate, and nurture plants AND people in your life!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Blogging for Books, Waterbrook Multnomah Publisher’s book review bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Posted July 16, 2012
I really enjoyed this book. It about life and it cycle as though Flowers. There are alots of lesson though out the book though followers. It teaches us that we must move on and keep going. Hulda had lost most of her family and she wondered why she did. Her children died before see did. That must be tough to do.
This books teaches you lesson though the way Hulda did it though her garden. It book that really hit home with your emotions. I suggest that you have a few tissues on hand or you may be wipe your eyes while reading. It was heartfelt in some parts in this book. To me it a must read.
Posted June 26, 2012
Jane Kirkpatrick makes history come alive, and she has done it again with her latest historical fiction, “Where Lilacs Still Bloom”. The book is based on the life of Hulda Klager, a German immigrant who settled with her husband and four children in Woodland, Washington, not far from Vancouver and Portland, Oregon. Hulda was born around 1864 and died at the age of 97, outliving her husband and all her children. Early in her marriage she wanted an apple that wasn't so hard to peel to make apple pies for her husband. Through selective breeding she attained her goal and began to use the technique to improve her flower garden and ultimately her lilacs. She wanted a creamy lilac with twelve petals which took her a lifetime to achieve. Jane tells her take with a real eye for making the people and events in her novels like living history. She tells her tales with humor and faith. In the story Jane gave us glimpses of the characters who would figure prominently in the story. Some of these characters were composite people from her research. But she has such an attention for detail for the time period that she is writing about that it seems as though the reader is right there. And we learn something about history in the process. And about the people who made history with their unique lives like Hulda Klager. I would very much recommend this book as well as any of Jane Kirkpatrick's 22 published books. You are in for a real treat.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 6, 2012
Posted May 31, 2012
Where Lilacs Still Bloom is the fictionalized story of Hulda Klager a self taught botanist, her greatest love was lilacs. Trying to make a special lilac, one with twelve white petals was a passion for her, something that kept her awake at night thinking on how she can do it. She made over one hundred different variety of lilacs, a huge accomplishment for someone with only an eighth grade education. Even though she had many trials in her life, she still stayed strong in her faith and took most things with stride, even when floods threatened to destroy her plants and home. She tried to accomplish many different varieties of plants, mostly lilacs but some other flowers and also apples. Her accomplishments were large many people came and visited her gardens every summer. She gave out starts of her lilacs to those who wanted them her lilacs were spread out throughout the country. She was a great person with a strong faith and had many, many accomplishments.
I very much enjoyed this book it was very well researched and very well written. I would recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction. I was not made to write a positive review, just to express my opinion.
Posted May 26, 2012
When I requested this book to review, I thought the synopsis sounded interesting, although I was not too sure about the cover of the book. Well, don’t let the cover dissuade you. The book is quite engaging. In fact, I read this book from cover to cover in two days. Jane Kirkpatrick wrote this fiction book based on the life of a real person, Hulda Klager. I love that concept – writing fiction based on a real-life person. Ms. Klager seemed to have so much energy – I so envy that. She accomplished quite a bit in her life. Her generosity touched me – not sure I could ever be like her, but it would definitely be something to strive for. Even though Ms. Klager achieved only a formal eighth grade education, she was creative, smart, and a huge risk-taker. Her husband supported each endeavor and they had a model marriage. Her life wasn’t always easy. In fact because she lived at the first half of the 1900′s, life indeed was difficult and women lived a much different type of life. Women were stifled of their creativity in many ways – expected to work in the home only. Where Lilacs Still Bloom introduced us to several talented career women. We saw both men and women interested in gardening and creating new plants. The descriptions in the book made it possible to visualize Ms. Klager’s garden. I could smell the lilacs! This book would be classified as Christian fiction. If you are interested in historical fiction and love a great story – this is a book for you to read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 22, 2012
Where Lilacs Still Bloom: A Novel by Jane Kirkpatrick tells the real life story of Kulda Klager, a German immigrant with only an eighth grade education who created one of the most notable lilac gardens in the country at her own farmhouse in Woodland, Washington in the early 1900′s. Though she endured many personal tragedies, including burying her beloved husband Frank and all of her children, she continued to bless others with the gift of beauty in the form of her precious flowers. At the end of her life, she received numerous awards for her labors in the areas of plant hybridization and over fifty of her lilac variations have been featured in tomes about the species. I teared up at several points throughout this novel not because of the accomplishments of Mrs. Klager, an underdog in her field, but because of her spirit of humility, generosity, and gracious way of dealing with the enormous amount of personal loss she suffered throughout her life. She did not become bitter with God, though she understandably struggled and endured depression at various points of her life. Instead, she saw her garden as a metaphor, a way to celebrate life after death, a passion of her own that consistently gave her the hope of a fresh start despite the several floods and tragedies that threatened her labor of love. The story of Mrs. Klager will ring true with readers on many levels. For instance, the relationship between Frank and Hulda touches on the struggles many experience in marriage to include balancing one’s own interests with those of the greater good of the family, attempting to show love by becoming interested in things that are important to one’s spouse. Though it tells a domestic tale, Where Lilacs Still Bloom is much more than the tale of an uneducated housewife who immigrated to the United States and accomplished her personal goal of breeding a creamy, twelve petal lilac, it is about struggling to see beauty in a world full of pain and finding it. Genre: Christian Historial Fiction/Memoir/Biography Overall Rating: 4 Character development: 4 Plot: 3 Fluidity: 4 Originality: 4 I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 22, 2012
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Historical fiction can take us back to some of the world's most significant events or give us a bird's eye view of what may seem unevental ordinary life. Had Hulda Klager, wife and mother, known that author Jane Kirkpatrick would write a fictionalized account of her life in Washington State from 1863-1960, she would have been surprised, but also pleased. What made her life worthy of a novel? Why did descendents and neighbors work to save her gardens and the decades old "Lilac Days" celebrations? Read Where Lilacs Still Bloom to find out the answers..
Author Jane Kirkpatrick explains in her afterward to the book: Hulda was an ordinary woman with an extraordinary ability not only to see the details within individual plants so that she could breed for hardiness and resistance to disease in addition to color and size and scent, but also to imagine something more than the tiny pollen at the end of her turkey feather or smallest brush. Her dedication to detail and the specifics of science and her artful imagination are what drove her to develop more and more varieties. I like to think it was a gift she was given that enhanced through study, determination, patience, and love.
Hulda had a dream to develop better lilacs, aiming her sights on a creamy white one with 12 petals. It would take decades of patient cross-breeding by hand and many set backs, many caused by floods, before Hulda would see her dream realized. In our day of hybrid plants and animals, it is hard to visualize a time when her work would be criticized as messing with God's plan. A historical contemporary of her's is Burbank and references to his work show just how revolutionary her attempts were. This book is a quiet book which shows the power behind a husband and a family's support toward a dream. At times Hulda questions whether others sacrificed too much because she was so preoccupied with her quest, but it seems her passion was meant to be rewarded and fulfilled. Glimpses of life in the early twentieth century and all the social changes it brought show through the narration. Like other Kirkpatrick books I've read, the author follows the lives of seemingly ordinary people, certainly individuals overlooked in history books, to show us authentic snapshots of America's past.
Kirkpatrick does not indicate that Klager left behind diaries or journals, so I must assume they are fictionalized thoughts attributed to Hulda, but I find them to be the heart and soul of this quiet, but interesting novel: Beauty matters, . . .,it does. God gave us flowers for a reason. I think so we'd pay attentionto the details of creation and remember to trust Him in all things big or little, no matter what the challenge. Flowers remind us to put away fear, to stop our rushing and running, and worrying about this and that, and for a moment have a piece of paradise right here on earth. God offers healing through flowrs and brings us closer to Him.
In this late spring/early summer time period, follow Hulda's wisdom. Take time to enjoy your flowers or your neighbors' if you don't have any. Find a public garden and appreciate God's creation and those human hands that labor to nuture such beas refres
Posted May 21, 2012
This is the second book I've read written by Jane Kirkpatrick. The first was called The Daughter's Walk and it was written in the same style as Where Lilacs Still Bloom. Both of these books are based on the true story of a woman in history. Kirkpatrick has a great way of taking facts about someone's life and crafting a beautiful story out of them. The stories she crafts are her take on what may have happened in the characters lives and the reader must remember that these stories are not the actual, true story of the characters, rather they are based ¿on the true stories.
It took me a few chapters to really get into this book and even when I did, it wasn't the sort of book that kept me turning pages late into the night. I enjoyed learning about Hulda and her lilacs, but the book wasn't always super entertaining. It may be that the subject matter, lilacs, wasn't of great interest to me. If you're interested in lilacs or stories of history, this book will be right up your alley. I look forward to seeing what story Jane Kirkpatrick tells next!
¿Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided for this review. All thoughts are my own and I was not required to post a positive review.
Posted May 21, 2012
I had some trouble getting into this book, and as such it took me quite a while to read it. It felt a little scattered in the beginning, jumping around among numerous characters some of whom after finishing the book I felt were not necessary enough to have learned about them in the early chapters. Other characters existed that I wish had been developed more through the story. The middle portion was decent, though, and flowed pretty smoothly to me. But then at the end, it felt hurried and rushed. I found myself reading names I didn't quite recognize and reading lines and thinking "Wait, what happened? I want to know!" but no further details were given. I didn't love the book. But I didn't hate it either. It was just ok, to me. Not good, not bad... in between. I loved that it was based on the true story of Hulda Klager (but this IS a fictional story, be aware of that!) and I liked the author's note at the end that provided some of the non-fictional facts about Hulda and her garden (which I would love to visit some day...) and within the story there were a few lines that spoke to my heart; words I found hopeful and encouraging. I did take away some things from reading this story, which makes the book successful and worth reading, in my opinion, even despite the aspects I didn't care for so much.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
Posted April 22, 2012
Even though the new novel, Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick may seem like just another romance story disguised as a historical work of fiction- this book is actually a historical fiction novel. I've read a number of books by contemporary writers that call their fiction books historical novels when they are nothing more than disguised romance novels. Perhaps by including a western themed setting or an Amish town, the author uses a loophole to call the book historical. Yet, Jane Kirkpatrick's books, with its authentic details, actually live up to the genre of historical fiction.
The author does not rely on simplistic happily after after fairytale endings where the heroine gets married, has children and live happily after after. Her storylines, based on historical lives, show true heartach and misfortune, yet all the while, well developed moral characters. Her noble casts of characters have more substance, than just to simply seek out romance and marriage.
The setting of this story may seem too simple and uneventful- a married woman with 4 kids living at the turn of the century, tends to her garden and experiments with producing a greater variety of lilacs. The years the woman, a German immigrant named Hulda, takes to develop a lighter shade of lilac with an increased number of petals, may appear to be trivial, costly and time consuming. In fact this issue is addressed when the characters wrestle with personal and financial hardships as either a direct or indirect result of her devotion to gardening. There are extraordinary circumstances- almost unbelievable- if it were not actually based on historical fact. There is the death of her two young son in laws, within one year apart, leaving her daughters young widows. Thereafter, during her long life, Hulda lives to bury just about all her children- two daughters and one son. One is left to wonder how a mother can outlive her children by so many years. In fact this is addressed by the suggestion that Hulda's intent for the pursuit of her trivial passion of gardening superceeded that for her children and husband and that her family's life revolved around the pursuit of making her comfortable and happy pleasing her every whim. The dysfunctional family was had a codependant relationship, and that she manipulated her family through a prolonged mental illness inorder to get their support for her gardening passion. As a blogger for WaterBrook press I received this book from the publisher in order to write this review. The opinions expressed are my own.
Posted May 1, 2012
No text was provided for this review.