URSULA, UNDER

Ingrid Hill

One of the most widely praised and rapturously entertaining first novels in recent years begins with a little girl falling down an abandoned mineshaft in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Her name is Ursula Wong, she’s part Chinese, part Finnish, only two years old, and soon the dangerous effort to rescue her has an entire country glued to the TV. As it follows that effort, “Ursula, Under” re-creates the chain of ancestors, across two thousand years, whose lives culminate in the fragile miracle of a little girl underground: a Chinese alchemist in the third century bc, the orphaned playmate to a seventeenth- century Swedish queen, Ursula’s great-great-grandfather who was the casualty of a mining accident that eerily foreshadows Ursula’s dilemma, and many more. A work of symphonic richness and profound empathy, “Ursula, Under” dramatically demonstrates that no one is truly alone.

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