The Amaranth Enchantment
R. Bailey Scott
Hardcover and softcover:
ISBN 10: 1-59990-334-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-59990-334-7
(Bailey Scott, 15, will be a sophomore at The Winsor School in Boston,
Massachusetts where she is a staff writer for her school newspaper. She
and 17 other high school students are featured in a film documentary
about the Oregon Trail In Pursuit of A Dream which will be broadcast
by PBS in the Fall of 2009, and last week (August, 2009) premiered at
The Wyoming Film Festival and at the Oregon and California Trails
Association conference in Denver.)
From the opening sentences of The Amaranth Enchantment, the engaging,
humorous and breathtakingly spare prose of Julie Berry grabs and shakes you:
"Someday, Lucinda," she says, "these jewels will all be yours."
They smile, kiss me and hurry down the hall warning me to be good for
Nurse. Papa so tall and handsome. Mama sparkling and trailing perfume.
They leave for the ball.
But, they never come back.
Three hundred pages later, as the book races to its close, you will find
yourself asking for more.
The Amaranth Enchantment follows the layered riches-to-rags-to-riches
story of fifteen-year-old Lucinda Chapdelaine as she struggles to find
her way in the world and replace the sense of family she lost when her
Consigned to an evil aunt, Lucinda slaves away as her house servant
until, one day, a mysterious stranger arrives at her uncle's jewel shop
and sets her off on a magical journey full of astonishing twists and
turns, temporary disappointments and, ultimately, joy.
When the book debuted in March of 2009 it prompted a front page story in
The Boston Globe, republished throughout the United States, about how
Latter-day Saint women authors like Berry, Stephanie Meyer, and Shannon
Hale are making a names for themselves by writing for the "safe" young
adult audiences. Berry is a member of the Weston First Ward of the
Boston Stake, which she serves as public communications director.
The story line is fast-paced and exciting, and the plot unique and
intricate, something rarely found in fairy tales. While hurtling toward
a happy-ever-after-ending, the book entertains and amuses with many
laugh-out loud moments while still revealing a depth of understanding
about loneliness, home, and discovering one's sense of purpose.
The focus of the book is on Lucinda, of course. However, that does not
prevent Berry from inserting a prince, a traditional component of every
fairytale worth its pixie dust. "What's a fairy-tale without a prince?"
Berry asks with a laugh.
However, Berry deliberately does not let the prince get in the way of
developing the female protagonist, Lucinda, who is both strong and
independent. "It's not like other fairy tales where the heroine is
destitute until the prince comes to save her. Lucinda's victory did not
depend on the prince," Berry said.
"I saw Lucinda as having a lot of strength, character, and grit, which
she uses to reclaim her home and identity. I hope that upon reading this
girls will know that they have the ability to build their own future
homes and identities by choosing the life they want to live and pursuing
their dreams through education and experience. Love, while wonderful,
doesn't have to come along to achieve happiness."
Perhaps the author's own life inspired the resilience established in
Lucinda's character. Visit Julie Berry's house or watch her family in
church and you will observe how strong willed and good at multi-tasking
she really is.
Mother to four young boys, Berry balances her family with a very hectic
career as a software marketer and author. She currently has a six-book
contract with Scholastic, and manages to squeeze in time to write
between husband, children and her day job. There is no wondering why
Berry creates such a tough character after watching her juggle multiple
things in her life simultaneously.
Along with creating a strong and independent character, she wanted to
develop a heroine whom adolescent girls could relate to. Berry insists
that Lucinda could be any girl, for she is neither excessively brave nor
exceptionally brilliant. "She is a very believable person whom I hope
girls can see themselves in," she said.
As Lucinda searches for self and home, Berry breathes life into
fantastical settings, people, and creatures. Many female Mormon authors
who write for teenagers - Shannon Hale and Stephanie Meyer, for example
- create worlds within best-selling novels, leaving teenage girls
hungering for more.
Such electrifying fantasy add great strength and originality to their
works. Now, The Amaranth Enchantment takes magical imagery to new
heights. She "paints" settings so vividly that readers will find
themselves entering her imagined world instantaneously.
Berry said, "My religion has given me perspective of life and love
stretching beyond this world, and I believe that the mysteries explored
in Mormon theology, in regard to the afterlife, really helped in shaping
my creation of Lucinda's world."
"I hope that young people will think of me as someone who produces works
that are exciting and fun," she says. But The Amaranth Enchantment,
while amusing, also beautifully illustrates and brings insight to
complex themes and emotions such as loneliness, home, and identity.
Berry says: "It is my hope that at least one girl will read The
Amaranth Enchantment, love it, and be swept away by the fantasy and