Review: The Vines We Planted

I always thought it would be fun to pair wine with a great work of literature— a robust cabernet when reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, a peppery tempranillo with Don Quixote, or a buttery chardonnay with Madame Bovary. Certainly one should be sipping on a pinot noir when gulping through the pages of the hit novel Sideways, the book about of two friends who head out for one last trip to wine country before one of them marries. 

I consider this again after reading the new novel The Vines We Planted by Joanell Serra, a complex family saga touching on a number of themes—loss, redemption, forgiveness, marriage, immigration, love, adoption, mystery, and yes, wine. Plenty of wine. Like an old vine wine, the story has deep roots, taking place in California’s wine country where generations have tended to a family vineyard. But where family also means complicated realities, secrets, heartbreak, and courage to face tough truths about mysterious relationships.

Along with wine, there are also horses. And I don’t say this flippantly. Some of the most beautiful passages in this story center around the Macon family’s young widower, Uriel and his love of horses, the peace and comfort he receives from caring for them. In the first pages of the book, Serra writes, “Uriel understood how to coax an angry stallion back to his stall, when to let a horse run hard, and when to rein it in. He knew never to turn his back on a horse or put himself in the path of its temper.” These words come to define much more than the character’s relationship with horses.

Serra weaves a number of storylines into a larger narrative about how we face our challenges and learn to overcome them. Sometimes taking in all the themes makes for a dense read, but when is family not complicated? The layers of any family run long and deep. The Vines We Planted captures that reality.


So, what wine should one be drinking when reading The Vines We Planted?
The wine has an array of flavor profiles—grapefruit, raspberry, peach, to name a few. And the range of colors includes mango, cantaloupe, and melon, among others. The assortment of possibilities with rosé is like the scope of storylines in The Vines We Planted—complex, but highly drinkable, a book, like the wine, that one can savor.
THE VINES WE PLANTED, by Joanell Serra
WiDo Publishing (May 8, 2018)

2 thoughts on “Review: The Vines We Planted

  1. What a “delicious” review! Thanks so much David. As a writer, being in the same blog as Hemingway and Flaubert is pretty sweet. Never mind how much I loved Sideways. I really appreciate your thoughts and playfulness with words!


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