Monday, July 11, 2011

Shadows of Wormwood by T.J. Koll

Shadows of Wormwood by T.J. Koll was a real look at what typically happens when a family faces a tragedy and how it impacts each member.

Book Summary:

Short, tough and painfully outspoken, Bitsy Cooper is far from your ordinary thirteen-year-old. While other girls her age worry about boys and clothes, “Itsy-Bitsy” spends her days skipping class and slugging it out with neighborhood bullies. Unfortunately, that tomboy-tenaciousness proves useless in dealing with her alcoholic father, her fanatically religious mother, or the anguish of losing her older brother on a foreign battlefield.

Still struggling with that profound grief and caught in the middle of her parents’ disintegrating marriage, Bitsy is suddenly confronted with a new challenge: protecting her little brother from a sadistic schoolyard delinquent who seems intent on putting him in the hospital…or worse. But to save her younger brother and indeed her family, Bitsy must do far more than simply stand up to yet another bully—she must
overcome her own tempestuous spirit and the heartache from which it springs.

Filled with rich characters and unabashedly honest storytelling, Shadows of Wormwood explores the nature of pain and fear in our modern era and their impact on society’s most important institution—the family.

My Thoughts:

I really got into this story and connected so much with the re
al character, although I don't have much in common with her. What I did have, and I think every reader would connect with, is her passion for her family - and taking care of those who need help. Every family has a Bitsy, someone who doesn't operate within the boundaries but has a good (and large) heart and for the most part, does everything for someone else's good although it doesn't seem that way from the outside.

The best part about this book was how RAW it was, and by that I mean just how real the situation was, and felt to me as a reader. This family was experiencing real emotional turmoil after the death of the oldest son, and that really came through to me as I was reading it. I found myself missing Keit
h and feeling like I was part of the family grieving for him. I couldn't put this story down because I was truly rooting for this family, and I like that is wasn't all happy-endings and rose was REAL.

The author is certainly a great storyteller, and I think it is amazing how many themes he included in this story - tragedy, pain, bullying, elder care, sympathy, adultery, religion, and even larger societal issues...but above all, the theme was family. There were five stories running throughout the novel, each family member and then a side story about a satellite that was on a crash course with Earth, and all of them evolved into a very touching story about FAMILY, and to what depths we will go for one another.

I recommend this book - it is a heavy read, but sometimes you just need that, and a story that tugs at your heart is never a bad thing. Great story, characters, and message. Kudos to the author!

Click HERE to visit T.J. Koll's website

Favorite Passages:

"Five middle-aged women, another six in their early seventies, and one so gray and fragile that any onlooker would assume she'd died a year earlier - despite her desperate objections, Bitsy's mother had dragged and dropped her off at Wednesday morning Bible study and placed her under the delicate care of the congregation's old biddies."

"They talked for a while more, mostly reminiscing about Keith and what they remembered most. They didn't weep into one another's arms, didn't trade heartfelt apologies, didn't spout promises of change or even hope like some family sitcom. More than a year of alienation couldn't be overcome so quickly, especially not in their family, where emotions were rather uncomfortable and usually concealed."

"They were simply a family - still grieving, still struggling, still uncertain about almost everything - but a family nonetheless."

I wanted to share this alternate cover
which I think is neat!


  1. Here is what I found out when I researched the word "Wormwood" and here is what I found:

    Wormwood may refer to:

    1) Various plants of the genus Artemisia but commonly Artemisia absinthium, also called grande wormwood or absinthe wormwood
    2) Wormwood (star), in the Book of Revelation, a star that falls upon Earth and poisons a third part of the waters
    3) Wormwood (immoral woman), in the Book of Proverbs(5:4, NKJV), a woman that entices a man into immoral conduct

    #2 and 3 definitely connect to the novel, so I am interested in hearing the authors feedback on how he came up with the title.

  2. From the author:

    "In regards to the title, yes, "wormwood" here refers to the star that falls in the Book of Revelation. I thought it was appropriate given the surrounding story and the sensationalism taking place. I suppose it could also refer to the plant in absinthe, which has a somewhat numbing effect on the drinker--just like the various numbing agents used by the characters."