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Book review: Utah author’s ‘Root, Petal, Thorn’ explores the lives of 5 women over the course of a century

SHARE Book review: Utah author’s ‘Root, Petal, Thorn’ explores the lives of 5 women over the course of a century

"ROOT, PETAL, THORN," by Ella Joy Olsen, Kensington Publishing, $15, 290 pages (f)

In "Root, Petal, Thorn" by Utah author Ella Joy Olsen, a house on Downington Avenue, on one of the oldest neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, has housed many families over the decades and holds a plethora of memories.

Current resident Ivy Baygren is determined to find out just who those memories belong to and what their stories are, especially since memories of her recently deceased husband, Adam, are causing her so much pain.

"Root, Petal, Thorn" tells of the lives of five different women who lived in the house on Downington Avenue over the course of a century. Their stories are uncovered through clues that Ivy finds throughout the house as she tries to distract herself with a to-do list that includes the two items: to get her house in order and find a deeper meaning. The chapters also feature each of the five women to bring the stories to life and give details that could only be seen through the eyes of each woman.

Ivy discovers the stories of a Greek immigrant and mother during World War II who is trying to keep her family together, a young member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint faced with a question of her faith, a young child with parents who are unable to provide for her needs, and a mother with a mental illness who is trying desperately to be the mother to her child.

Olsen succeeds at making each character come alive in the book, though in the beginning the stories are a little confusing and the reader might have a difficult time placing which woman fits where. By the end, however, the reader will find themselves attached to each of the strong characters and invested in how each of their stories will end.

Olsen weaves real history throughout the book to add more depth to the storyline. She also covers the more difficult times in each of the womens' respective time periods, including war, death, heartbreak and religious questions.

"Root, Petal, Thorn" points at a more mature audience, with references to sex but no description of sex itself, mild language and one brief violent scene that is not overly descriptive.

If you go …

What: Ella Joy Olsen book signing

When: Tuesday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m.

Where: Bingham Creek Library, 4834 W. 9000 South, West Jordan

Web: ellajoyolsen.com/events.html

Also …

When: Tuesday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m.

Where: Holladay Library, 2150 E. Murray-Holladay Road, Salt Lake City

Email: toriackerman@gmail.com