I couldn't put this book down. Had it in my reading queue after reading an intriguing review. A very modern novel, although I should try to identify what I mean by modern. (1) The author doesn't *explain* everything. In fact, some of the more important events take place offstage. She is the imperfect filter for her experiences. Her tone is cool, detached almost. Scientific. She's in a relationship. She's not in a relationship. He is the omnipresent "Eric." All the other characters are not named. The best friend. The advisor. (2) The author is having an existential crisis. It's okay to talk about an existential crisis again, especially in the context of ethnicity and feminism. The author deals with both. She is a female scientist. She is Asian American. (3) The principles of chemistry become allegories, become jumping off points for deeper consideration. She g-r-o-w-s in the book. We grow with her. It's a life's work.
A book of high imagination and multiple storylines: mother, son, explorer, advocate, murderer. A book of philosophy, humanizing, questions. An expanded allegory maintained with touchstone images. A mother yearning for her son. Her son escaping to the high seas. Not escaping exactly. Called. What he discovers about himself, the world. The brutal mother, oversized, raising her dogs. rescuing the downtrodden. Language like a daydream. "Sexing the cherry" refers to the grafting of plants, combining separate plant parts to create a new, stronger speciman
Jerry Apps is a Wisconsin native, writing heartwarming books about rural life in the state. Cranberry Red was a book club pick, which fact reveals the greatest reason to participate in a book club -- to expand your reading choices.
Cranberry Red harks back to Apps' time as an agricultural agent attached to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Agriculture is a serious and important enterprise in Wisconsin, and the essential premise of the book made me remember the tagline from the 1970s Chiffon commercial: "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature." Somewhat ironically since the commercial was advertising yellow-dyed margarine against butter. We are the Dairy State. (Tellingly I have a tendency to orient my perspective with the prevailing commercial culture. I am a child of my generation.)
The structure of the book was engaging and effective. Apps started with a wide angle view of a disparate group of characters and gradually narrowed focus to the main ag agent character and his necessary and penultimate action. Along the way we meet an interesting cast of supporting characters, some villainous, some misunderstood, and learn more about farming, education and what lines not to cross in the interest of profit.
Cranberry Red was a quick and enjoyable read, especially fun because I was familiar with many of the places and locales.