“Periwinkle took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She stood still and quiet, listening to the stars above her for so long Linardo began to wonder if she would do anything at all. At last, with the smallest, clearest voice, Periwinkle began to sing. She echoed every true thing the stars had whispered to her. Her song was joyous in the way that only someone who has been immensely hurt can sing joy. All the while, the glint in her hand spun with light, sparkling with every swell and fall of the enchanting melody, until finally the song ended, and Periwinkle opened her eyes. There was a rich fragrance in the room, as if it were filled with roses and sandalwood.”
—Periwinkle, by Jordan Durbin
Isn’t that an absolutely beautiful excerpt?! Honestly and truthfully, it made me cry. And this is why I’m so excited and honored to review Periwinkle, Jordan Durbin’s debut novel: its simple yet profound language reminded me over and over again that even in darkness, the clarion song of truth, goodness, and beauty cannot be silenced.
Writing for Cultivating Magazine has been one of 2020’s truest joys: not only have I been writing about subjects I’m passionate about, but I’m finally part of a close-knit writing community! Jordan Durbin is one of these new friends of mine, as well as my Cultivating writing partner. We have so much in common: homeschooling, our love for good literature, movies, and music, our deep desire to tell honest and beautiful stories, and our growing knowledge in the art of gardening. She is the far more experienced gardener; I am the newbie, still trying to transfer my (considerable) head knowledge into actual practice. But between the two of us, we make a pretty good team when it comes to writing about our gardens and orchards for Cultivating!
Jordan is an artist extraordinaire, with a whole Etsy shop dedicated to her handcrafted pottery (one of her beautiful mugs is now featured in Cultivating’s new online shop!). But she also just published her very first novel, Periwinkle–and I had the honor of being one of her beta readers this autumn.
“In the very driest, sourest corner of Blughen was a broken house. The door didn’t close, and nobody cared. There was nothing of value to steal and the owner of the house was meaner than anything or anyone that might try to invade. The roof would have leaked if there had ever been rain. The owner of the house was an old hag of a woman named Snork. Maybe she hadn’t always been so mean, but her parents had named her Snork, and there just isn’t much recovery from that. The other inhabitants of the house were a considerable number of rats, a troublesome raven that did not care for catching rats, an obese skunkbear (also, not a rat-catcher), and one small, scared girl named Periwinkle. This is where our story begins…”
Honestly and truthfully, I couldn’t put this book down. Well, okay, I had to put it down while I worked the early voting polls back in October–but I was so desperate to get back to Periwinkle’s story that I finished it in a breathless rush the first day I got back to my writing nook. Jordan’s writing style is reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’: whimsical and humorous, yet suspenseful and more than capable of yanking on heartstrings. Periwinkle, meanwhile, was a mix (in my mind) of Les Miserables’ Cosette and Star Wars’ Rey: utterly alone and destitute, yet kindhearted, resilient, and hungry for beauty and belonging.
Periwinkle’s hard, lonely life transforms, however, when a star bows to her, and the jolly scholar Linardo and the warrior-mouse Carrots quickly realize there’s more to her than meets the eye. Swearing to protect her, they take her on a journey full of trolls, pirates, and mysterious allies in the hopes of reuniting her with the King of Valorra–the only other person to whom the stars would ever bow. But an evil empress is also in pursuit, and she will stop at nothing to make sure Periwinkle never finds her true home…
I hardly ever cry for books, yet this one made my throat tighten and my eyes well up with tears more than once. Periwinkle is all about identity, the one story theme that resonates with me every single time. For much of the story she doesn’t know whether she ought to believe what Linardo and Carrots are constantly telling her: that she is far, far more than just an abandoned, unloved slave girl. Yet her heart is drawn to the truth like a moth to a flame, and once she finally claims it in the face of terrible darkness, it makes all the difference in the world.
Jordan told me that Periwinkle originally started as a story she wrote for her own daughter; as such, it’s aimed more towards middle-grade readers. But as C.S. Lewis once said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally–and often far more–worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” Considering the fact that this almost-29-year-old cried for the story of Periwinkle, Linardo, and Carrots, I’d say without hesitation that Periwinkle is one of those rare books worth reading no matter how old you are.