Ursula, Under

Ursula, Under

A Novel

Book - 2004 | 1st ed.
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Workman Press.
In Michigan's upper peninsula, a dangerous rescue effort draws the ears and eyes of the entire country. A two-and-a-half-year-old girl has fallen down a mine shaft—"the only sound is an astonished tiny intake of breath from Ursula as she goes down, like a penny into the slot of a bank, disappeared, gone." It is as if all hope for life on the planet is bound up in the rescue of this little girl, the first and only child of a young woman of Finnish extraction and her Chinese-American husband. One TV viewer following the action notes that the Wong family lives in a decrepit mobile home and wonders why all this time and money is being "wasted on that half-breed trailer-trash kid."

In response, the novel takes a breathtaking leap back in time to visit Ursula's most remarkable ancestors: a third-century-B.C. Chinese alchemist; an orphaned playmate of a seventeenth-century Swedish queen; Professor Alabaster Wong, a Chautauqua troupe lecturer (on exotic Chinese topics) traveling the Midwest at the end of the nineteenth century; her great-great-grandfather Jake Maki, who died at twenty-nine in a Michigan iron mine cave-in; and others whose richness and history are contained in the induplicable DNA of just one person—little Ursula Wong.

Ursula's story echoes those of her ancestors, many of whom so narrowly escaped not being born that her very existence—like ours—comes to seem a miracle. Ambitious and accomplished, Ursula, Under is, most of all, wonderfully entertaining—a daring saga of culture, history, and heredity.


Baker & Taylor
Ursula Wong, a racially mixed child, falls down a mine shaft and rescue efforts go on against a background of stories about her remarkable ancestors.

Publisher: Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9781565123885
1565123883
9780143035459
0143035452
Characteristics: 476 p. ; 24 cm.

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lisahiggs
Nov 17, 2010

It was a neat idea to go back in Ursula’s chain of ancestors, but I didn’t feel like they were connected. It’s not so much a novel as a collection of short stories.

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