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Likely Stories : When the Apricots Bloom, by Gina Wilkinson


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

According to the jacket, Gina Wilkinson is, “an award-winning journalist, author, foreign correspondent, and documentarian.  While in Iraq, she was under tight surveillance.  Gina now works in international development, supporting efforts to end poverty in the developing world.  When the Apricots Bloom is her first novel.


Gina writes, “Huda paced her backyard, trying to brush off her spat with her husband” […] “It was almost midnight when Huda gave up waiting for Abdul Amir to come home and crawl into bed.  Above her head, the blades of the fan pushed warm air around the bedroom.  She lay on her back and catalogued the noise of the night: the buzz of the fluorescent light in the foyer, the gritty wind scraping at the windows, listening for the dull snap of a lock or the tread of heavy boots on her driveway” […] “These days her husband’s black moods were worse than ever.  Earlier that evening, when he arrived home from work, he’d been slumped in front of the television, still wearing his baggy pajama pants and singlet. // ‘I’m hungry,’ he’d grunted, eyes trained on the TV screen.  ‘What’s for dinner?” (10).  A typical family scene, but dangers abound right around the bend.

Another character is Ally, wife of Tom Wilson a diplomat in Iraq.  Ally has been hoping for some clue as to her mother’s experiences in Bagdad, when Ally was young.  Wilkinson wrote, “Tom and Ally fell silent as they passed the flashing traffic lights and neared the men sipping tea and playing backgammon on the sidewalk.  In the cool of evening, dice clattered.  Dominoes clicked and clacked.  A man tilted his head and blew out a stream of minty smoke from his nargileh pipe. // ‘Hello!’ he cried. // Tom raised his hand in greeting and smiled.  Ally tried to do the same, but her lips wouldn’t cooperate.  She kept her eyes down and skirted past the mismatched tables.  As soon as they were out of earshot Tom’s smile vanished. //

‘I can’t believe this,’ he muttered.  ‘I get back from a week away and discover you’ve been playing Nancy Drew.  If the woman at the hospital checked the nursing records, they’d show your mom was…’  He trailed off, checked the sidewalk, and bent close to her ear.  ‘They’d show your mom’s nationality for sure’ // ‘I never mentioned my mom.  Not once.’  Ally scowled.  ‘There’s absolutely zero chance that Mrs. Al-Deeb would make that connection.  All I said was I was writing a book about nurses who worked in Iraq.’ // ‘That’s enough to cause trouble.’  Tom Grumbled.  ‘You don’t have a work permit.’” // ‘What am I supposed to do?  Stay home and learn to crochet’’ (79-80).  Despite her credentials, as the husband of a diplomat, she is stopped by an armed guard. 

When the Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson is a scary story of a young woman determined to find records of her mother’s disappearance years before.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.