THE CROOKED BRANCH
This novel is really two engrossing tales that work in concert and also stand on their own. The portion set in the present day is a realistic treatise on the difficulties of new motherhood and loneliness. The other is a fascinating exploration of a family struggling to survive the Great Irish Famine. Cummins’ well-researched, lively prose brings the two together into a bittersweet whole with a satisfying and emotional conclusion.
Struggling with postpartum depression and insecurities, new mother Majella finds a diary written by her maternal ancestor Ginny, who fought to keep her family alive and bring a pregnancy to term during the Great Irish Famine. But when Majella discovers that Ginny killed someone, she becomes convinced that mental illness and bad motherhood run in the family. Majella investigates Ginny’s story further and learns surprising truths about herself and her own mother. (NAL, Mar., 384 pp., $15.00)