Published by Knopf on July 8, 2014
Source: I borrowed this book from my local library.
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From the celebrated author of The Bird Sisters, a gorgeously rendered and emotionally charged novel that spans generations, telling the story of two siblings, raised apart, attempting to share a life.
It is 1938 when Eveline, a young bride, follows her husband into the wilderness of Minnesota. Though their cabin is rundown, they have a river full of fish, a garden out back, and a new baby boy named Hux. But when Emil leaves to take care of his sick father, the unthinkable happens: a stranger arrives, and Eveline becomes pregnant. She gives the child away, and while Hux grows up hunting and fishing in the woods with his parents, his sister, Naamah, is raised an orphan. Years later, haunted by the knowledge of this forsaken girl, Hux decides to find his sister and bring her home to the cabin. But Naamah, even wilder than the wilderness that surrounds them, may make it impossible for Hux to ever tame her, to ever make up for all that she, and they, have lost. Set before a backdrop of vanishing forest, this is a luminous novel of love, regret, and hope.
Evergreen is an “emotionally charged novel that spans generations, telling the story of two siblings, raised apart, attempting to share a life.” It starts out in 1938 with newlyweds Emil and Emeline, who are trying to carve out a life together in the Minnesota wilderness. Emeline is such a dainty, somewhat naive character when we first meet her. When Emil has to leave for Germany, I love how independent Emeline becomes. She is determined to learn and do things, whatever needed to be done. She ends up having to make an incredibly difficult, heart-wrenching decision which becomes the foundation of the rest of the novel. The plot isn’t surprising (especially if you read the book jacket or summary beforehand) but this is still a wonderfully character-driven read that I didn’t want to end.
My only issue with the book centers around pregnancy and birth, which I felt were overly romanticized. While pregnant, the women always just “knew” the gender of their baby, and of course, ended up being correct every time. That felt kind of silly to me, but Hux’s premature birth outright bothered me. He was two months early, yet all Emil says is “he’s tiny but fine.” I needed a little bit of followup on that for it to be believable, especially since they are out in the middle of the woods with no support. And it’s the 1930s. But after his dramatic entrance, Hux is just like a full-term baby, which made me wish the preemie thing had been left out completely. With no followup, all it does in this book is perpetuate the “a preemie is merely a tiny baby” misconception.
Other than that, I was totally into this family’s story, throughout all three generations. I wanted to stay with them even longer; I would have been okay with the book being twice as long, especially since Rasmussen’s writing is so lovely and easy to get lost in. She has a knack for bringing a setting to vivid life in relatively few words. I could imagine all the details of the Minnesota landscape perfectly in my mind. The end was a little too tidy but you know, it was still exactly how I needed it to end. Such a satisfying read!
Evergreen was recommended to me by Crystal at Anne Knows Books, a $3 subscription-based book recommendation service that gives you a personalized reading suggestion based on your individual book profile. You provide information on book characteristics you love and hate, your ideal book length, books you’ve read over and over, etc. You can also link to your public Goodreads account if you think it will help fine-tune your profile. Then the book matchmaking happens! Crystal chose Evergreen for me, which surprisingly was not already on my TBR list. I like that she told me why she selected this title for me, too: “It’s a wonderfully written family saga. I think you’ll enjoy it because it’s an interesting historical fiction novel written from multiple perspectives. I really loved how the stories were woven together through time.”
Although my own TBR list is overflowing (as is the case for many of you) and I don’t typically have trouble finding books I think I’ll enjoy, having too many choices can be paralyzing. It was nice to give this service a try and go along with someone else’s opinion of what they think I’d like. And she was spot on with this book suggestion! Crystal has been kind enough to offer my readers a free month of the service. Just head over to Anne Knows Books and use the promo code lovelybookshelf if you’d like to give it a try.