Ursula, Under: A Novel

Front Cover
Algonquin Books, 2004 - Fiction - 476 pages
4 Reviews
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.

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Ursula, under: a novel

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In her remarkably meaty first novel, set in Michigan's remote Upper Peninsula, Hill blends a present-day drama with epic tales of ancestry. In the main story, tiny Ursula Wong child of a librarian ... Read full review

Review: Ursula, Under

User Review  - Alice - Goodreads

Oh, the joys of browsing the "New Books" shelf! Happened upon this gem, a rich tapestry of interwoven stories. It starts as the story of a two-year-old girl who falls down a mine shaft on a family ... Read full review

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About the author (2004)

Ingrid Hill has published short stories in a range of magazines and is the author of one collection, Dixie Church Interstate Blues. She earned her Ph.D. in creative writing at the University of Iowa and has twice received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. The mother of twelve children, including two sets of twins, she and her family live in Iowa City.

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