Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wild Roses by Deb Caletti

I will finish In the Country of Brooklyn before the end of the year. I will finish In the Country of Brooklyn before the end of the year. I will finish In the Country of Brooklyn before the end of the year. I will finish In the Country of Brooklyn before the end of the year....

Oh, sorry. Didn't see you there. I'm just a little bit busy with my token, how you say, Old Year's Resolution. I've got just over 100 pages left, and I'm going to finish it. Mark my words, because you don't read more than 500 pages into a book and just wander off. 50, yes, 100, yes, 200, maybe. But 500? No. I'm too close to let it beat me.

But I digress. Really I'm here in an attempt to catch up on the back logged reviews. So, I give you my review of Wild Roses, which, I'll have you know, is the third consecutive book I've read this year with a main character named Cassie. This was entirely unintentional and not just a little bit strange.

Cassie is the narrator of Wild Roses, and her life has gotten just a little bit confusing. It started when her parents got divorced, continued when her mother remarried mentally disturbed world-famous violinist Dino Cavalli, and got even worse when Cassie met Ian, a young violinist whose playing melts Cassie despite her usually being impervious to the power of music. Dino is off his meds trying to produce new work for an upcoming concert, and slowly coming unhinged. To keep him sane and focused, Dino takes Ian, who is trying to get into a premiere music school, as a student. Soon, Cassie finds that all the confusing and difficult parts of her life are colliding.

I confess I had a Child of Divorce Reunion Fantasy Number One Thousand, where I for a moment imagined my father finding out that Dino really was a killer woman and that my parents would have to get back together. I saw them running through a meadow, hand in hand. Okay, maybe not a meadow. But I saw me having only one Christmas and one phone number and only my father's shaved bristles in the bathroom sink.

Cassie is a great narrator, strong and smart yet vulnerable, serious but with a biting and laugh out loud funny sarcastic wit. She comes off as pretty normal and well-adjusted, but behind the scenes she's struggling with the fear and potential humiliation that comes with living with Dino, with the occasional irrational fantasy of her parents reuniting, and of course, with her feelings for Ian and whether she is willing to let him get close even though she knows that his very circumstances guarantee that he will soon leave. She's a veritable everygirl trying to keep up the front of being fine while dealing with trouble at home, parents that can't quite be relied upon, and her first feelings of real love for Ian.

I couldn't believe it. I loved my mother and I loved my father, but there in that circle I felt something I hadn't for a long time. It was something I'd been missing, that I'd been long for without even realizing it. It was a sense of family.

Wild Roses definitely has it pegged. Life with the paranoid and mentally ill, life as a "Child of Divorce," and life as a normal girl falling for a guy she knows she shouldn't. Other than a slight problem with pacing that probably results from trying to cover each angle equally and a finish that seems to peter out more than definitively end, Wild Roses is a sweet and honest story about real love, trust, and learning to let people in.


  1. I read this book this summer. My parents also divorced when I was about 14, and while I never had any fantasies about them getting back together, I could relate to so much of Cassie's story. So much so that when I finished the book, I was shaking and irrational and cried for a few days. Then I blocked most of the book out so I could cope emotionally and move on with my life. It touched me as no book had touched me in a very long time.

  2. I've never heard of this book, but boy, does it sound good.

  3. I think "Wild Roses" is a nice, sweet read for young women, but retrospect reveals that it's not very strong in terms of character development (beyond Cassie, that is) and a little lacking in depth (the pacing problem you mentioned). Personally, I also quite liked the music theme (made it a little less fluff and more substance for me...), but you're certainly right to say that this is a pleasant, well-written book.

  4. Cassie sounds like a great character - very witty and funny.

    I feel for you and In the Country of Brooklyn. I find when I have a book I've invested so much time into that's sitting around unfinished, I get put off reading, period!

  5. That sounds like a deeply moving book. I am very glad you brought it to my attention. Thanks for the great review!