This spring, my heart almost broke when I walked outside to discover my neighbor had chopped her lilacs a few feet from the ground. It was but a few weeks from blooming, and although the bushes were not mine, I was always welcome to cut as many of the fragrant blossoms as I wanted. Now, they looked forlorn and desolate. Mere stumps. I’ve long been a lover of those purple heavy-scented spring blooms. Lilacs remind me of my birthday in May. I feel a deeply personal connection with them, as they remind me of my grandmother and my mother — also lilac lovers.
A few weeks later, I was flipping through a magazine when the description of a new novel caught my eye. Or maybe it was the cover of the book, depicting a cascade of purple lilac blossoms. The brief synopsis described a story of a German immigrant and farm wife, Hulda Klager, who discovered a passion for hybridizing lilacs.
I checked to see if the book was at the library. It was. I put the audio book version on hold.
As I began listening I was transported to Woodland, Washington, where the novel follows the life of Hulda Klager from the late 1800′s into the early 20th century. I was even more captivated when I realized the story was based on a real woman, whose lilac gardens and home are open to the public. Hulda faces many challenges in hybridizing her lilacs: flood waters, the opinion of others, and even her own gnawing doubts that oppose her at times. But Hulda persists, finding comfort in her blossoms and her faith, continuing in her work. Ultimately, she comes to see her passion for lilacs as a gift from God to give others.
Having never read any of Jane Kirkpatrick’s previous work, I didn’t realize I’d picked up a novel of the Christian genre. I must confess, except for Jan Karon’s Mitford series, I’ve not read much Christian fiction for many years because I’d begun to find the spirituality trite and the writing not up to par. However, Where Lilacs Still Bloom pleasantly surprised me. Kirkpatrick weaves a realistic story where the quiet faith of Hulda is depicted sincerely and winsomely. There is no preaching in this novel, only the story of a life that gives beauty and a faith that grows and deepens through the years.
It was with great excitement that I got to chat with Jane Kirkpatrick through email. I was excited to find out more about her life as a writer and further details about how she came to write Where Lilacs Still Bloom.
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