The Berry Pickers-Book Review

Blueberry bush
Blueberry bush
ISBN: 978-1646221950
Published: 10/31/2023
Page Count: 320
July 1962. A Mi’kmaq family from Nova Scotia arrives in Maine to pick blueberries for the summer. Weeks later, four-year-old Ruthie, the family’s youngest child, vanishes. She is last seen by her six-year-old brother, Joe, sitting on a favorite rock at the edge of a berry field. Joe will remain distraught by his sister’s disappearance for years to come. In Maine, a young girl named Norma grows up as the only child of an affluent…

Just as muddled painful pasts lay the foundation of grief, anger and sorrow for Joe, haunting dreams so vivid as memories, sculpt the life of little Norma. These two main characters, in Amanda Peters’ debut novel, The Berry Pickers, grow up into adulthood. Readers witness them from the innocence of their childhoods to the raw tragedies that stains their lives. Two stories are told by both Joe and Norma in alternating chapters throughout the entire book. Although their life trajectories travel in different directions, they also cross paths, leading ultimately to unified life stories.

This story with its hard truths of hardship, family tragedies and the sequelae an injured heart, had my emotions on edge. Many stories express the pain of loss from the perspective of the parent, but Peter’s really showed how this pain of losing a sibling can change the life of a person. Reading Joe’s narrative, I couldn’t help but to feel for him even when he did wrong. His suffering, which led him on a personal journey for change, came full circle in the book. This healing along with Norma’s at the end really made this book enjoyable.

Norma’s narrative was eerie and painful in a different way. The reader knows as does Norma, that something was wrong and off about her family. Her visions, which were so vivid left her filled with questions and unrest. As a child, her parents shelter, smothered and guilted her into obedience. Her childhood experience distanced her from her parents once she was an adult, and yet, she also made a full circle back to her childhood home, eventually finding peace with the secretes that unveil themselves.

Although, this book does not talk about food all that much, I liked how the story line is written around this migrant Mi’kmaq family that traveled from Nova Scotia to Maine to harvest berries. This has inspired me to read up on a little history about the Mi’kmaq tribe and these regions. It is interesting how not much has change with migrant farm workers of then and now related to the hardships that they endure. I think this is an excellent story that touches the heart of any reader and would be perfect for Native American Heritage Month, even though the Mi’kmaq are indigenous to the areas of Canada’s Atlantic Provinces.

I must go prepare a meal with blueberries now. Stay tune for a future recipe!

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