First published by Bell Bridge Books in 2011 (this edition was received for free from the publishers via Netgalley for review)
Description (from Goodreads):
She found her place in a turbulent era of deep passions, heartbreaking sacrifices, and grand dreams.
When scholarly, smart Mary Margaret is sixteen, her father marries her off to a drunken neighbor in return for a tract of land. The year is 1924, and Mary Margaret's motherless childhood has already been hard as a farm girl on the desolate prairies of North Dakota. Abused and helpless, the new Mrs. "Marge" Garrity seems destined for a tragic fate.
But Marge is determined to make her life count, no matter what. Her escape from her brutal marriage takes her to California, where she struggles to survive the Great Depression and soon answers the lure of the state's untamed northern half. There, embraced by the rough-and-ready people who built the great Ruck-a-chucky Dam on the American River, she begins to find her true mission in life and the possibility for love and happiness with an Army Corp engineer of Cherokee Indian descent.
This vivid saga of one woman's life in the early decades of a turbulent century is told from the heart of a true storyteller in the grand tradition of women's sagas.
Beyond The Bougainvillea is the story of Mary Margaret, known throughout the book as Marge, as she tries to deal with all the hardships life seems to throw her way. The book starts off during the early years of Marge's life, when she is living with her father in North Dakota, where - essentially - she is a personal slave of her father's. When she is sixteen, her father marries her off to a complete idiot of a man, who is way to old for Marge and treats her just like her father does. As a result of various circumstances and occurrences, as well as from the help of the people she is closest to, she ends up in California. From then on, Marge takes her life in her own hands.
When I finished this book, I was a little awestruck and not necessarily in a good way. While reading the book, you meet hardship upon hardship upon hardship, until you actually reach the point of wondering, 'What worse thing could happen?'. And then, surprise, surprise, it does happen... It's all tragedy: friendships gone bad, loves gone awry, fathers behaving like complete and utter idiots (though maybe that's too mild a word). Interspersed between all the bad happenings, there are also a few happy and positive moments, but they don't last long at all.
One thing I really did not like about this book was the fact that the author seemed to jump years ahead in just one sentence. By that, I mean that she would start of a chapter at 'Time X' and then, nearly half-way through it, we would find ourselves fast-forwarded to 'Time X+5'. She devoted chapters and chapters to all the things that went wrong and then, couldn't devote a few paragraphs about the years in between. I'm not sure I am making much sense, but if you read the book, you will see what I mean.
The book's redeeming quality would have to be Marge. She is such a strong character. At times, she came across as a bit of a bossy-boots and a know-it-all, and it seemed to me as if she was a bit of a meddler, too. I honestly have no idea how she kept on wanting to live with all the things that happen around her.
So, I'm not really sure what to make of Beyond The Bougainvillea, as you can probably tell. The only thing that I am sure about is that I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.
Rating: 5/10 (I'm leaving it completely in your hands...)
Dolores Durando is the 90-year-old author of Beyond The Bougainvillea, which is also her debut novel. She grew up in North Dakota, though she didn't have the rough life Marge experiences in her novel. She's seen everything happen firsthand, so she knows what she's talking about when she describes the isolated and rough conditions in Dakota during the early 1900's.
Read for the: 100 Books In A Year 2011 Challenge