The Crooked Branch {Review and giveaway}

by NancyT

I’m a big fan of historical fiction, with one of my favorite locations and time periods being New York City during the mid 19th century, when thousands of Irish immigrants arrived, fleeing the famed potato famine.  But the famine itself is a subject that’s not well-covered, so I was happy to receive The Crooked Branch, the second novel by the talented Jeanine Cummins,  for review.

Majella has just given birth to her daughter, but is having trouble connecting with her. She’s hearing a crunching sound and thinks she might just be going crazy. She’s also discovered that her video baby monitor is on the same frequency as a neighbor’s, and spends more time than she’d care to admit spying on twins who seem to spend a lot of their time alone in their cribs while someone cries in another room. When she comes across the diary of an ancestor who admits to having killed someone in front of her own daughter, Majella wonders whether she really is crazy or if she’s just genetically programmed to be a bad mother.

150 years earlier, Ginny is living a simple existence in her home in Ireland, caring for her family and the potato crops that feed them as well as pay their rent to the uncharitable landlords. Then the blight arrives, destroying the very thing they depend on, sending her husband to America to earn the money to keep them alive. Several months pass without a word from him, so after learning of a position opening up in the home of a wealthy English woman, in desperation Ginny leaves her children and applies for the job. She enlists the help of an old friend, who is the driver for the English woman, to bring food to her children, and soon gives birth to her fifth child. When the unthinkable happens back home, Ginny makes a decision that will change their lives forever.

The Crooked Branch alternates between Majella in Brooklyn in the present and Ginny in Ireland in the past.  The transitions aren’t always seamless and it takes some time for the correlation between the two stories to emerge, but the novel is well-written and the characters are believable.  Ginny and Majella would both do whatever it takes to provide for their children, though their circumstances are drastically different.  The contrast between the two women is jarring – one is strong because that’s the only way she’ll survive, and her future great-granddaughter’ problems are enormous to her but would have seemed ridiculous to someone on the verge of starvation.

We have 1 copy for one lucky winner, U.S. only.  Leave a comment below to be entered to win.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 DEBIJOT April 1, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I like to read about The Dark Ages

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2 Anne April 1, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I enjoy reading about the 1930′s and the 1940′s.

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3 marybeth i April 1, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I love reading about WW II (40′s)

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4 Staci A April 1, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I like reading about modern times or colonial America.

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5 Susan P. April 2, 2013 at 12:29 am

I like to vary the types of books and time periods, but some favorites have been historical fiction from 1300s to the 1600s.

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6 Tammy Gordon April 2, 2013 at 4:40 am

Looks like a good book!

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7 Tammy Gordon April 2, 2013 at 4:41 am

Sorry, I like to read any historical fiction. :)

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8 amyc April 2, 2013 at 8:45 am

I love all historical fiction but civil war era is my favorite.

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9 Kristin Jones April 2, 2013 at 10:33 am

This book is definitely on my wishlist and I am going to see the author at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in May! so excited!!

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10 Idaho Jill April 2, 2013 at 11:11 am

I love lots of different time periods – I especially LOVE books that have a correlation between past and present – gotta go put this on my amazon wish list so i don’t forget about it!

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11 Holly C April 2, 2013 at 11:21 am

My reading is all over the place, but I do enjoy reading about the late 1800′s.

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12 Daniel M April 2, 2013 at 9:37 pm

early america and dark ages

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13 Madonna April 3, 2013 at 10:32 am

I have always loved historical fiction and the Elizabethan era is probably my favorite.

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14 Amy M April 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I read all kinds of stuff, but Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey have me obsessed with Edwardian and Prohibition times lately.

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15 nannypanpan April 3, 2013 at 11:05 pm
16 Garrett April 4, 2013 at 10:52 am

During war times.

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17 Rona April 4, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I find World War 2 a great background for a book.

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18 Laura April 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm

My favorite is 19th century.

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19 Jake April 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I typically read contemporary fiction, but I like glimpses of the past from a human, rather than historical, perspective.

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20 Alison April 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I don’t think I have a favorite time period to read about – I like both historical and contemporary fiction.

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21 jennifer April 5, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I would love to read this.

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22 jennifer April 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm

hit send to fast – i really love reading about all periods of history. its more the story that determines if i will read it.

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23 mlh April 5, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I’ve just finished the book. Once I started it, I found it hard to put down and carried it with me everywhere. Strongly recommend it for anyone

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24 Bridget T. April 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I like modern day stories.

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25 jessica April 5, 2013 at 5:56 pm

I love the 19th century, I think I was born too early!

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26 Debbie woods April 6, 2013 at 8:05 am

I don’t have a favorite time period. I think it all depends on the story. :)

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27 Vanessa April 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I like contemporary books but I go through stages and really enjoy reading about the 1800s. I really am open to anything as long as it’s a good story! momlovesdeals at gmail dot com

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28 Beth C April 8, 2013 at 8:19 am

My favorite is the civil war era but I enjoy reading any kind of historical fiction!

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