The Violets of March: A Novel

The Violets of March: A Novel

by Sarah Jio
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Overview

The Violets of March: A Novel by Sarah Jio

From the New York Times bestselling author of Always and Blackberry Winter, a heartbroken woman stumbles upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line, The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101514047
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/26/2011
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 60,671
File size: 455 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sarah Jio is the author of The Bungalow and Blackberry Winter. She is the health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com, and her articles have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine and Real Simple, among other publications. She lives in Seattle with her three young boys and golden retriever.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Mix a love story, history, and a mystery and what takes root? The Violets of March, a novel that reminds us how the past comes back to haunt us, and packs a few great surprises for the reader along the way."
-Jodi Picoult, author of Sing You Home & House Rules

"Sarah Jio's The Violets of March is a book for anyone who has ever lost love or lost herself."
-Allison Winn Scotch, author of Time of My Life and The One That I Want

"An enchanting story of love, betrayal, and the discovery of an old diary that mysteriously links the past to the present."
-Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

"Sarah Jio delivers a gem of a book, perfect for reading on the beach or under a cozy quilt."
-Sarah Pekkanen, author of The Opposite of Me and Skipping a Beat

"The Violets of March is a captivating, bittersweet tale of what happens when the long-buried truth finally makes its way to the surface. I didn't want this book to end!"
-Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

"Sarah Jio is one talented writer!"
-Claire Cook, bestselling author of Must Love Dogs and Seven Year Switch

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
Emily Wilson would be the first to admit that her life has seen better days. Her best-selling novel debuted eight years ago, she has struggled to write since, and she is now coming face-to-face with divorce from her once perfect husband Joel. Emily needs to heal, and she decides the best place to renew herself is across the country in a dear spot from her childhood: Bainbridge Island.

While staying with her beloved Aunt Bee, Emily's attempt at healing becomes complicated when she discovers the diary of a mysterious woman named Esther. Esther's story leads Emily on a path through a timeless love story, a painful series of misunderstandings, and a devastating secret that has vexed her family for decades.

The Violets of March is a story about love and fate. It's about the power such love has over us over space and time, and how it can haunt us when it goes unfulfilled. It defines love as an eternal bond that may drive us toward irrationality, but, ultimately, brings us hope for happiness and forgiveness.

ABOUT SARAH JIO

Sarah Jio is a frequent contributor to major magazines, including Real Simple, Glamour, Cooking Light, and Redbook, and is also the health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com. She lives in Seattle with her family. The Violets of March is her first novel.

A CONVERSATION WITH SARAH JIO
Q. There are three interweaving stories that run throughout the book: Emily's story, Esther's diary, and Years of Grace. What challenges did you face bringing those stories together?

Three stories in one book can get unwieldy, so I was careful to keep each thread neat and tidy—like three balls of yarn, weaving them together without introducing too many tangles or missed stitches. In doing so, I spent a lot of time outlining the key events of Esther's story, then planning just the right moments in the book to plant clues and make key revelations. I enjoyed putting little hints in the diary for Emily to discover in her present day experience on the island. This was fun work! And, the Years of Grace thread was an absolute delight to work with. I stumbled upon this book purely by chance and fell in love with it. And, readers should know that it is indeed a real book (not just something I made up!)—a classic from the 1930's that is most likely forgotten by present day readers. I challenge any and all to read this beautiful book. It had shocking parallels to Esther's story in Violets, and made the perfect book for my characters to read, love and think about in their journeys.

Q. You write affectionately about Bainbridge Island and its denizens. Do you have a specific connection to the island? What inspired you about the island while writing this book?

I'm so pleased to hear that my love for Bainbridge Island came through in my writing. It's a very special place to me. I grew up just over the bridge, in the little town of Poulsbo, Washington, and spent many happy hours of my life on the island, playing on its shores. Bainbridge has charmed me from an early age, so it was a natural place for me to set my story. I have always felt that it has a certain beauty and peace that is absolutely unmatched. While I tried to preserve the island's characteristics and feeling, I did take artistic license in places (for instance, not all streets mentioned in the book exist or are geographically accurate; nor do violets bloom in March!)—but after all, this is a work of fiction!

Q. There are multiple characters in this book across different time periods. How do you go about constructing so many fully fleshed-out characters? What aspects of character are most important to you?

What it boils down to, for me, is immersing myself in the characters as I write—really trying to hear their voices and think about what choices they would make, versus what choices I would make. What helps me, also, is thinking about people in my life who may remind me, a little, of my characters (not that any of the characters in Violets are modeled after real people, because that isn't so). But, the strong and memorable characteristics of people in my life definitely play a role in character-development in my fiction work. For example, the bit about Bee enjoying her usual breakfast of sourdough toast with softened butter and whipped honey—this was borrowed from my late grandmother, herself an artist. I've found that paying attention to the traits, quirks and habits of those around you can help create realistic and loveable characters on the page.

Q. So much of The Violets of March is about true love and fate. Where do you stand personally on these topics? Do you see parts of yourself in Emily?

While my own life and story does not mirror Emily's in the slightest—I'm happily married with three young sons—I've always been curious about others who haven't been so lucky in love, others who may be looking back on their life and wondering about their first love, like the love Esther and Elliot shared. And, a hopeless romantic at heart, I guess I believe that if you truly loved someone once, that flame continues to burn, forever maybe. I really enjoyed toying with this idea in Violets.

Q. What are you working on now? Will we be reading more in the life of Emily Wilson?

I just completed my second novel, The Bungalow, which will be out from Plume in April of 2012. While the book won't be a continuation of Emily Wilson's story, it does pluck one key character from The Violets of March for a brief cameo appearance!The Bungalow, which I'm so very excited about, is the story of a woman, who, at the very end of her life, receives a letter that triggers haunting and bittersweet memories of her time in the South Pacific during World War II, an unfinished love story, an unspeakable tragedy, and a mysterious beach bungalow at the center of it all. And, I am also hard at work on my third novel. Stay tuned for more on that!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Who is Emily Wilson? How would you describe her life and her state of mind at the beginning of the book? What draws you to her character?
  • What are your first impressions of Bee? How would you describe Emily and Bee's relationship?
  • What role does Bainbridge Island play in this story? What makes it unique? What does the island offer Emily that she can't get from her life in New York?
  • Family secrets play a significant part of the action in this book. How have these secrets affected Emily's family and personal relationships? Would you have tried to uncover the truth as well?
  • Emily finds two love interests on Bainbridge Island: Greg and Jack. What are your impressions of each of these men? Considering that Emily ultimately pursues Jack, would you have done the same? Why or why not?
  • Fate is a strong force in The Violets of March. How does fate affect Esther's story? How does it affect Emily's? What parallels do you see between the two? Do you believe in fate?
  • Henry reveals that he planted Esther's diary for Emily to find. Why didn't he confront Bee himself? Why was it important for Emily to find the diary and read it?
  • At one point, Emily thinks to herself, “What power Esther had over all of them.” What is your opinion of that thought? What power did Esther have over Elliot, Evelyn, Bee, Janice, and Henry? What power did her story have over Emily?
  • Both Bee and Elliot harbor guilt about the night of Esther's accident. How do you feel they handled the situation? Would you have protected Elliot the way Bee did? Would you have gone down after Esther the way Elliot said he had wanted to?
  • When Joel attempts to rekindle his love with her, Emily has gone through a great deal of soul-searching. What is your opinion of her decision to not take Joel back? Would you have done the same?
  • Elliot says that he and Esther were “soul mates,” and Emily's relationship with Jack mirrors that sentiment. Do you believe in soul mates? What role does timing play in these two couples' relationships? What could Esther and Elliot have done differently to be together.
  • The final scene finds Emily on the verge of writing again. How do you envision what her next book will look like? What future do you see for Emily?
  • Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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    The Violets of March 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 163 reviews.
    angeleyesAS More than 1 year ago
    The Violets of March is a delightful intricate family saga about secrets that join the past with the present. Emily, the main protagonist, is a best-selling author who is suffering from writer's block after her husband leaves her (for the usual reason) after ten years. Emily escapes from New York City and takes refuge for a while with her eccentric Great Aunt Bee on Bainbridge Island in Washington. While doing research for her new book she comes across an old diary written by a woman named Esther in 1943. Things aren't the way they seem and there are many dark secrets to be found out. The truth behind Esther's tragic disappearance will keep you guessing until the very end. But it's so worth the suspense until then. The mystery slowly unravels as relationships expand, especially that of a former teenage involvement who still lives on the Island and a handsome painter who is a mystery unto himself. There's unexpected romance and as secrets are revealed Emily's world is turned upside down as she discovers her real self. This is a treasure!
    anovelreview_blogspot_com More than 1 year ago
    Emily Wilson had it all. Married to a GQ handsome hubby, bestselling author her life was picture perfect. Suddenly, it was all over. Her husband leaves her for another woman and her best-seller writing career is going know where because she has writers block. Where can she go? She decides to go back to one of her favorite places in the world, Bainbridge Island, where she spent her summers growing up visiting her Aunt Bee. There to deal with the loss of her marriage and hopefully to find some inspiration for a new book, what she finds instead is an Island full of secrets and two love interests. Love interest number one is Greg, an old high school boyfriend and the other good looking local artist, Jack. While figuring out her own love life, she stumbles onto an old diary dated from 1943. As Emily begins reading the story of diary, she finds her own life to have parallels to the author, Ester's, life. Emily begins to realize the sort of love she wants and deserves. Feeling so close to Ester, she realizes she must solve the mystery, but the more Emily learns the more questions arise. I have a very messy house right now, because I could hardly put this book down. I read it in one day and that is not an easy feat in my home. When I read the journal entries (which are more of a story within a story) I felt transported to another era. I was completely engaged in the story and lost track of time. The descriptions are very well written. I could smell the salty air and I could feel Emily's frustration. The entire time I was trying to figure out the puzzle of the story and I could not figure it out. I wanted the mystery solved, but at the same time I didn't want the story to end. This book has goosebump moments and brought me to tears! I LOVED this book! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading! This is Jio's debut novel. I cannot wait to see what she writes next. And this is a book I will read again and I almost never do that!
    Jennifer Digney More than 1 year ago
    I loved this book! I took a chance when I read a good review in a magazine and I was not disappointed. This book has suspense, romance, and a plot that moves along at a nice pace without being predictable. The author is talented and I look forward to her next novel!
    liisa22 More than 1 year ago
    Sarah Jio's debut novel, "The Violets of March" is a wonderful story, set on beautiful Bainbridge Island, in Washington. Jio's characters are throughly believable and the plot develops beautifully. I loved the aspect of a story within a story, via a diary. It is such an integral part of the story, but flows WITH the story. The lovely description of the setting of Bainbridge Island allowed me to immerse myself in the book and feel i was there. A great story, a lovely setting. Let yourself just enjoy it!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I picked this book by chance and could not put it down! I definitely recommend it.Happy Reading!!!
    robinakers More than 1 year ago
    This is a great book. You may think you'll know how it ends but you don't & you'll spend reading the entire book trying to figure out who is who but well worth the read. Couldn't put it down.
    Krystyn13 More than 1 year ago
    I absolutely loved this story...couldn't put it down. Highly recommend it to EVERYONE!!
    luv2readCB More than 1 year ago
    This book was recommended on Facebook by Jodi Picoult, & since I love Jodi's books I decided to try it. I'm so glad I did! I loved the book, kept me interested on every page, & I hated to see it end. I will definitely be looking for more books by Sarah Jio!!!
    ChloBugsMeme More than 1 year ago
    This is a story that involves family, friendship and lost love. Has there ever been two people in your life that you cared for? One, the dependable, caring but somewhat dull person everyone thinks is good for you. The other, one that is also a good and caring person, but not quite as dependable. There are skyrockets going off in your head every time you are near them. You find youself unble to carry on a decent sentence, not to mention clumsy. These are the two men Emily Wilson encounters, not once but twice in her life. When her husband decides he should marry another woman, Emily makes the trip for a month long stay with her dear aunt Bee. Here she meets two men, one she knew from her past, the other only a chance encounter. It is also here that she makes the mysterious discovery of a red velvet diary. One that leaves her with more questions than answers about her family. She simply cannot stop reading the diary written by a young woman named Esther. The more she searches for answers the more she learns the truth about herself, her family and her new love. The characters in this books are well written and well rounded. Each have their own special mystery to be learned in the end. You won't be able to put it down.
    Bookworm40FL More than 1 year ago
    LOVED this book.....I first read "Bungalow" and immediately purchased this one when I finished. I was sad when it ended because I just wanted it to keep going. Her writing draws you into the plot and makes you feel like you are right in the middle of the story. A MUST READ!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I was captivated by this story.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Unexpected and certainly had me guessing. It's not very long but it's just as intriguing as a longer book. Loved it!
    JGarrison More than 1 year ago
    I picked this little gem up at an used bookstore and so glad I gave it a chance. Beautiful story, wonderfully written, and was truly taken on a journey!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Love this book interesting characters easy to read couldnt wait to finish it i will definitely read other books from this author
    AlanaCA More than 1 year ago
    Amazing story! You will be immediately drawn into the characters lives. Sarah Jio has a gift!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    What a wonderful heart warming love story. It was hard to put the book down once I started it. It has you really thinking though. I loved it. Sarah Jio is a wonderful author. Thank you.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    An unexpected love story and an absolute treat to read
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Couldn't wait to pick it up when I had to put it down. Very well written and good character developement.
    Murry More than 1 year ago
    This page turner has you wondering how and why these older people of this era had to spin this web of secrecy to hide the past. A very compelling read as was The Bungalow. Upon Discovering the Diary Emily follows the clues to her ancestry well hidden by her Great Aunt Bee and others on the Island.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A love story and a mystery rolled into one. This novel has taken me on a great ride!
    love2readBY More than 1 year ago
    Read The Bungalow and immediately bought The Violets of March. Surprisingly I actually enjoyed this one even more! Wonderfully, endearing story - enjoy the modern day and 1940's storyline.
    Jen12WI More than 1 year ago
    I absolutely LOVED this book! I became so wrapped up in the story that I could not put it down! So sweet and uplifting. I can't wait to read her next book. Highly recommend this one!!
    sel43 More than 1 year ago
    Loved this book. Sarah Jio has a unique writing style and point of view. The mysteries had me captivated; I couldn't wait to get back to reading every time I had to put the book down. The tiny connections between characters through time, the romantic tension, the lingering questions - excellent!
    fooze More than 1 year ago
    this is a real " feel good" book. Loved it
    Mama-H More than 1 year ago
    Great story line, intriguing characters. Can't wait for Sarah's next book! A sequel maybe??