If I were to describe Before the Wildflowers Bloom by Tanya Bylinsky Fabian in a word, it would be “nostalgic.”
(Oh! And, click here for access to the vlog)
This is a story of family, as told by a young girl living in southern Colorado in 1816. She lives in a small mining town with her parents and four other siblings, and simply, it is a snapshot of a period of her life.
Perhaps what I find most emotionally relevant is that this story of family is a story of my extended family— Bylinsly Fabian is my cousin and the story is inspired by true events involving her grandmother. However, topic aside, I think it’s the way that the story is written that makes it so impactful.
I was first introduced to the concept of “vingettes” in my freshman year English class when reading Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. Simply put, a vingette is a glimpse of a scene that is brief but often descriptive. That is exactly how Wildflowers is written. The novel itself is slim, only twelve chapters over seventy pages, but each chapter is a simultaneously stand-alone peek into the child-narrator’s life.
So here’s where the “nostalgia” comes in. To read this story is like listening to an elder family member recall their youth. It’s like trading stories with a friend about the mischief you caused as a child. There are the humorous anecdotes and those filled with both longing and perhaps a sense of regret. But those stories are yours and they are what shaped you.
To read Wildflowers, it’s like stepping into someone else’s memory and look around. To compare it to your own story. I found Carm, the narrator, so relatable in her girlish way of viewing the world—the focus on one’s best friend (her sister) and their adventures together; the repeated threatened tattlings to a parent; the fascination of listening to one’s own parent as they reminisce.
This story’s relatability lies in the details. I could practically smell the fried potato slices that I’ve only been able to get at home and one other friend’s place. I could feel the despair in the anxiety that comes from not knowing if one’s loved one will be alright. I relished in the joy felt by warm Christmas cookies and snow on the holiday.
Simply put, this is an incredibly well written and sentimental book. It gives a glimpse into the past with its setting while exploring themes of family and childhood in a simple way from a youthful, almost idyllic, perspective. This is definitely a story with checking out.
That’s all I have for this week. Check out next week’s blog/vlog on The Inevitable Past by Carrie Jae Knowles.