Roses & Thorns

Roses & Thorns

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Fragrance of Geraniums by Alicia Ruggieri


Told from multiple perspectives, this is a powerful story of three women – of the threads of mercy that connect them – and of heart-wrenching sorrows alchemized by the Heavenly Father’s overwhelming redeeming grace. 

Rhode Island - 1934 

A GIRL Grace Picoletti has nothing going for her – but she’s determined to succeed in life, nonetheless. Born to severe destitution, she claws her way up from the pit of family shame and secrets. She avoids close friendships – even with the likable, persistent Paulie Giorgi... 

A WOMAN Despite her own agonizing emotional pain, childless Emmeline Kinner reaches out to a young woman so far beneath her. She could never have known whom else God would set in her path through her friendship with Grace... 

A MOTHER Long ago, Sarah Picoletti resigned herself to a loveless, abusive life – and she believes that her daughter Grace must inherit the same fate. Yet Sarah’s own soul cries out for the blessed peace and hope of which the radio minister speaks... 


Let me say, again, as I did in my review of A House of Mercy, how beautiful Alicia Ruggieri’s writing is. Few writers have such wonderful, poetic command of the English language. Her use of similes and metaphors is par excellence, and her easy, smooth sentence structure aids in drawing the reader into the story.

Her characterizations in The Fragrance of Geraniums, her second novel, are especially compelling as well. Grace Picoletti’s desperation to improve her situation, as well as to have a normal family, is gut wrenching, and young Paulie Giorgi’s care and tenderness towards Grace as he tries to befriend her, and eventually falls in love with her, is endearing and, at times, painful. And how Ruggieri could get inside Charlie Picoletti’s head to paint a picture of an evil man who really did not see his wrongdoing is beyond me. You will really dislike this man with everything you have. The other characters, from Sarah Picoletti’s disgust with her grinding  life to Emmaline Kinner's anguish at not having a child are equally well done. Truly, it is the characters that drive this book forward.  From about one third of the way through I could not put the book down. 

Having said all that, however, I did not like the ending. I cannot go into detail as to all the reasons why because I do not wish to spoil the story, and I highly recommend this as a good read. I will, however, treat my main one as it relates to plotting and resolution.

I found the ending to have little to do with the beginning and what I, at least, perceived to be Grace Picoletti’s long term goal. Within the first two chapters, Grace is portrayed as a young girl embarrassed by her extreme poverty and her family and one who wishes to rise “above the stars” in order to be something better. She certainly does not wish to end up like her mother.  Suffice it to say, she spends a great portion of the story making choices that put her on the road to what she hopes is a different kind of life. All of this naturally propels the reader towards her end goal of finding a way to fix her life, and Ruggieri does a classy job of unraveling young Grace's life in such a way it appears she can find no way out.

Then, all of a sudden, this long-term goal of Grace’s seems to be supplanted three quarters of the way into the book by a religious storyline which is then resolved by Grace coming to terms with Jesus by melting a Catholic view with a Protestant view. The implication is that now that Grace accepts this Jesus, her life will somehow turn out alright. While this substory is hinted out through Grace's relationship with young Paulie, none of the facets of Grace’s original long-term goal, her poverty or her dysfunctional family, are completely resolved to my satisfaction at least.  Perhaps Ruggieri is implying the resolution by the conversation Grace is having at the end, as well as a few other choices some of the other characters make. I, however, like things spelled out for me. I wanted to know how things turned out for Grace, and they were not addressed for me as a reader. Perhaps there is a sequel planned to address these issues? I don’t know. 

I did truly love these characters, and despite my dissatisfaction at the ending, I have given The Fragrance of Geraniums four roses. I can be extra picky about the use of Christian plot lines in books, more so than most other readers of Christian fiction. I oftentimes find myself leveling the same charges at authors like Karen Kingsbury, Mary Connealy, and Robin Hatcher, Clearly, readers love their books and I am the one one the outs here. For those who read the aforementioned authors, and others like them, A Fragrance of Geraniums is a must read. It will not disappoint. 

As for Ruggieri, I do sincerely hope that a sequel is being planned. I desperately want to know what happens to these people.

Thanks for visiting, Rose, Julie, Donna, & Rochelle

Length:  318 Pages

Print:  $11.43

Digital:  $0.99

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