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Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill

Ursula, Under

Family Drama   Literary Fiction   
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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

A half-Chinese, half-Finnish, miracle child (as far as her parents are concerned) falls down a misused mineshaft. During the course of the rescue operations we are given some extraordinary stories from both sides of her family history, learning that it is indeed a miracle the child was born. The book is fascinating although lacking a little in energy, I felt, but what is really amazing is that the author has twelve children and still had time to write this, and itâs not a short book!

Comparison: Amy Tan, William Kowalski.
Similar this month: Adele Geras, Marya Hornbacher.

If you like Ingrid Hill you might also like to read books by William Kowalski and Amy Tan.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst


Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill

In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a dangerous rescue effort draws the ears and eyes of the entire country. A two-year-old girl has fallen down a mine shaft and it is as if all hope for life on the planet is bound up in her rescue. Little Ursula Wong is the first and only child of a young woman of Finnish extraction and her Chinese-American husband. The Wongs live in a decrepit mobile home and their child is designated by one member of the TV audience as 'half-breed trailer trash', not worth all the attention and expense. Oh yeah? responds the story's narrative voice. Let's just see. And here the novel explodes into a grand saga of culture, history and heredity. By its end, we've met, among others of Ursula Wong's ancestors, a second-century-B. C. Chinese alchemist; an orphaned consort to a sixteenth-century Swedish queen; Professor Alabaster Wong, a Chautauqua troupe lecturer on exotic Chinese topics travelling the Midwest at the end of the nineteenth century; and Ursula's great-great-grandfather, Jake Maki, a mine worker who died in a cave-in at age twenty-nine.

Ursula's ultimate fate echoes those of her ancestors, many of whom so narrowly escaped not being born that any given individual's life comes to seem a miracle. Ambitious and accomplished, Ursula, Under is, most of all, wonderfully entertaining.

Browse inside this book


A chronicle of lives as strange and fantastical as fairy tales...An amazing feat of imagination...a delight of design. For colour and ambition this debut is hard to fault * Daily Mail * Boy, can Ingrid Hill tell stories * Guardian * An epic formula that, thanks to the author's no-frills execution, works remarkably well. Vivid...playful storytelling...The cumulative weight of family history lends the novel emotional heft * Independent * An amazing feat of imagination. This debut is hard to fault * Observer * Mind-blowing. This bold novel is an enlightening, gripping read * Eve *

About the Author

Ingrid Hill
Ingrid Hill has this to say about herself.........

"I was born in New York City, spent my early childhood as a navy-brat gypsy, and then settled in New Orleans until I was grown. I've spent half my adult life in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and half in Iowa City, Iowa, both university communities, with a three-year stint in Washington State, on beautiful blue Puget Sound. I have spent some time in Sweden and some time in China. While my writing career was late in starting, I was raising my children and consciously garnering wisdom over this time: I remember in my high school Latin book a watercolored Roman matron named Cornelia saying of her children, in Latin of course, when asked to catalog her wealth and possessions, "THESE are my jewels." I feel the same way. I was left a single mom with eleven children, nine of them then still at home, got a fellowship to do a Ph.D. at Iowa, and came here to study. I remarried during graduate school and had my twelfth child. My maiden name was Hokanson, from my Swedish ship's-captain father; my married name, Hill, which is also my writing name, came from the Finnish "Sellakamaki," meaning "from the back hill," which was truncated to "Maki" and then anglicized to "Hill."

Photograph by Andrew Schmidt.

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Book Info

Publication date

5th January 2006


Ingrid Hill

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Paperback (b Format)
496 pages


Family Drama
Literary Fiction

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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