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3-year-old Ursula falls down an abandoned mine shaft in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. While EMTs and urban cavers race to her rescue, the novel traces Ursula's ancestry through more than a thousand years in Finland, China, and the US.
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.
"[Hill] astounds with her ability to meld simply and beautifully told stories, stories with an air of fable about them." —The Washington Post Book World
"It’s a divine view of a family tree... Ride along to the end of this merry, generous book." —Time Out New York
"Hill’s stories lure-the characters are vital, clever, detailed, appealing; I wolfed the book down like a bowl of cookie dough." —The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Ursula, Under never ceases to surprise and compel. What a grand and daring book." —Brady Udall, author of The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint