Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review: Root, Petal, Thorn by Ella Joy Olsen + Giveaway!!

Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Pub. Date: August 30th, 2016
Pages: 320 pages

In this beautifully written and powerful debut novel, Ella Joy Olsen traces the stories of five fascinating women who inhabit the same historic home over the course of a century—braided stories of love, heartbreak and courage connect the women, even across generations.

Ivy Baygren has two great loves in her life: her husband, Adam, and the bungalow they buy together in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, Utah. From the moment she and Adam lay eyes on the home, Ivy is captivated by its quaint details—the old porch swing, ornate tiles, and especially an heirloom rose bush bursting with snowy white blossoms. Called the Emmeline Rose for the home’s original owner, it seems yet another sign that this place will be Ivy’s happily-ever-after…Until her dreams are shattered by Adam’s unexpected death.

 Striving to be strong for her two children, Ivy decides to tackle the home-improvement projects she and Adam once planned. Day by day, as she attempts to rebuild her house and her resolve, she uncovers clues about previous inhabitants, from a half-embroidered sampler to buried wine bottles. And as Ivy learns about the women who came before her—the young Mormon torn between her heart and anti-polygamist beliefs, the Greek immigrant during World War II, a troubled single mother in the 1960s—she begins to uncover the lessons of her own journey. For every story has its sadness, but there is also the possibility of blooming again, even stronger and more resilient than before…


What Did I Think About the Story?

I'm not ashamed to admit I was instantly drawn to Root, Petal, Thorn by the cover. It is just so beautiful, I couldn't help but want to learn more about it. Then reading the synopsis, and loving stories with multiple timelines as much as I do, I knew I needed to read this book. What could Ivy learn from her home and it's previous inhabitants that could possibly help her get over the grief of losing her husband? It turns out quite a lot, and not necessarily what I first assumed.

Ella Joy Olsen fairly gutted me from the very first page as the story begins with Ivy waking up and remembering that her husband is dead. She's been struggling through the healing process while she, and her two kids, continue to ache with their loss. This hit me pretty hard as I imagine I would react in much the same way, and it made me instantly connect with Ivy. Even with this connection, however, I have to say that Ivy wasn't my favorite character (she was great, just not my favorite). There are a number of incredible women sprinkled throughout the history of Ivy's house, and each of them brought a unique perspective to not only the overall story being told but to the time, place, and experiences they lived in.

The various women's stories are told in alternating chapters and my favorite storyline within Root, Petal, Thorn was that of Lainey Harper, a mother (who lived in Ivy's home in the late 60s until Ivy's family moved in) fighting to keep her sanity so she can keep custody of her daughter, while also trying to keep a part of the passion that defines her alive through her art. I found these chapters to be especially poignant as the author did an exceptional job at showing the internal and external struggles both Lainey and her daughter went through due to Lainey's  mental illness. Anyone who's known someone who's struggled with mental illness or dealt with manic depression themselves will be able to appreciate this struggle as it unfolds and long for Lainey to be able to find a good stable balance.

Along with this storyline there are women who tackle a myriad of situations - following their heart vs. following what their church and family tell them to do, struggling with the emotions of sending a beloved son off to war, losing a mother at a young age and trying to learn to live without her - and I can't imagine anyone not finding something to relate to or empathize with between these different stories. Some are dealt with and explored more than others, but I think each had its place within the greater story arc and all came back around to the general theme running through them all: in each story of heartache there is a touch of hope, and in each happy story there is a thread of sadness. That is the way of the world and, once a person realizes this, they can survive anything.

Root, Petal, Thorn is a powerful novel, one made up of a patchwork of stories that, while they don't necessarily all fit together neatly, all have a common balance of emotions and epiphanies wrapped up together in one home throughout time. I think just about anyone can find something to enjoy within this story, but I'd especially recommend it to anyone who enjoys an intimate look into the lives of strong, determined women.


What Did I Think About the Cover?

Well as I said above, this cover was what first drew me to the story. It is absolutely gorgeous, I  just love everything about it! Blurring the focus on the woman allows this to feel like it could be any of the women we meet within the pages. And the roses could be from the Emmeline rosebush that plays a prominent part in the story.
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Thank you to Kensington Publishing for providing me with a free copy of Root, Petal, Thorn in exchange for an honest review! Continue below for information about the book, the author, and how to enter to win a copy of the book for yourself!

Advanced Praise

"Five women. Five complicated lives. One house where they all live over a period of one hundred years. In this story, the walls talk. Wonderful, compelling saga."-- Cathy Lamb, author of My Very Best Friend 

"Root, Petal, Thorn is the perfect addition to a librar-ian’s toolkit of recommended reads for book clubs looking for a lively discussion."-- Deborah Ehrman, Librarian and Deputy Director, Salt Lake City Public Library System. 

"Olsen is an emerging voice to watch for in historical and contemporary women’s fiction." -- Aimie K. Runyan, author of Promised to the Crown

Buy the Book


About the Author

Ella Joy Olsen lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, in a century old brick bungalow with her husband and
three children. She spent nearly a decade on the Board of Directors for the Salt Lake City Public Library system (and even more years browsing the stacks), and is a member of Women's Fiction Writers and the best book club ever, (SLC Bibliophiles).

Learn more about Ms. Olsen and her writing on her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

It's Giveaway Time!!

Thanks to Lulu at Kensington Publishing I have one copy of Root, Petal, Thorn to giveaway (open to US/CAN only)! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!

Please Note: When verifying the extra entries I've noticed that some people are saying they follow me in certain ways that they, in fact, do not. I want to give extra entries to those that are actually taking the time to follow my blog, so please double check that you are in fact following me before saying you do. This verification is becoming a time consuming process so I will begin to remove all extra entries for those that I find are not being honest.

I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on August 30th, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email with their mailing address. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.

You can also check out Ella Joy Olsen's guest post about Forging Fiction via Family Folklore HERE.


  1. This sounds like my kind of book. I love these kind of stories. Thanks for the post. Look forward to reading it.
    Carol Luciano
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    Follow on Goidreads, bloglovin, Google + , email and Pinterest.

    1. You are so very welcome! Good luck in the giveaway!

  2. Yes! Even more excited to read it! I love how you said there is something for everyone in it.

    1. Yay!! So excited you're excited : )! Good luck in the giveaway!

  3. I am having problems getting my comment to post so if i end up with several posts, it was in error. I love books with dual timelines and this one has been on my tbr list forever. Susan Roberts. donaroad(at) yahoo(dot)com. I follow you on Facebook, email and Goodreads.

    1. You are good to go, Susan! Good luck in the giveaway!

  4. Wow, this giveaway had more entrants than normal, so thank you to everyone who took the time to enter (and actually follow me in various ways...I again had people saying they follow me in various ways that don't actually follow me, so those entries have been removed!). Anways, using a random number generator my winner is...Letty B! Congrats Letty B! I'm off to email you right now for your mailing address!