This gorgeously written novel is the story of Alma Whittaker, the physically and intellectually imposing daughter of a self-made botanist/pharmacist, who has a forceful need to understand their world. Circumstances of her childhood, such as the adoption of a second daughter by her parents, and the development of her only friendship as a child, prove to have an enormous impact on the course of Alma’s life and shape the woman and scientist she grows to be. Her life experiences take Alma and the reader to fascinating places with unusual characters and lead to some extraordinary ideas on Alma’s part.
It’s the elegant use of language that really makes this book stand out. The imagery is stark and beautiful. The characters are colorful and the settings often exotic. Alma is an extremely sympathetic character, in spite of all her awkwardness, and I felt myself rooting for her almost out loud at certain moments. There is also some very interesting historical fiction and quite a bit of science to the plot and I never felt bogged down by it.
This book is smart and interesting and altogether unique. Try it!