The Poppy Field

Fast-paced Women's Fiction about Family Secrets and Survival

Fiction - Womens
352 Pages
Reviewed on 04/24/2024
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Author Biography

Caroline Kellems, a native Californian, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCSB upon completion of a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, with a study emphasis in English literature. A few years later she received a Master’s Degree in Education from Framingham State College.

In 1985, she joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Guatemala. For three years she walked the countryside visiting distant villages and teaching peasants how to build fish ponds and raise fish to feed their families.

It was here in the green fertile lands of Central America she met her husband, Eduardo Godoy, whose family has been involved in coffee for generations. Intrigued by the culture and people of Guatemala, she felt compelled to write The Coffee Diary, a novel influenced by her family’s life and an expression of love for her adopted country. The Coffee Diary was released in September 2010 by MacAdam/Cage Publishers. The prevalence and acceptance of drug lords in Guatemalan society inspired her second book, The Poppy Field.

She and her husband own a coffee plantation in Guatemala and a coffee roasting company in Guatemala City. Caroline spends her time between North and Central America, working and writing.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Essien Asian for Readers' Favorite

After a near-death experience, Phil rededicates his life to Christ and turns his energy to spreading the Christian gospel worldwide. His decision takes him and his family from the comforts of their home back in Indiana to the isolated villages of Guatemala as a missionary. Phil sees an opportunity to convert their host community and build a church there, but his wife Katherine and his children, Justin and Katy, are not entirely sold on this new direction their lives have taken. Tensions build when the young family discovers the immense nature of the task before them. Can they succeed, or will the strains of Phil’s ambition tear them apart in Caroline Kellem’s The Poppy Field?

A father’s religious fervor tests the bonds of family relationships in Caroline Kellem’s The Poppy Field. An intriguing story plays itself out as every member of the Whitehall family fights their demons in private while putting up a united front to the outside world. Phil’s zeal to succeed at all costs blinds him to the emotional stress that Katherine is experiencing from his strange choices, which makes both parties question the very essence of their union. He displays naivete in not questioning Alfonso’s motivations even where there is an apparent conflict of interest in his actions. What stands out about the story is how Katherine prevents her children from becoming casualties of their host’s lifestyle. Kellem weaves an entertaining story around the minefield of being a supportive spouse in the face of daunting adversity.

Danelle Petersen

Set in the backlands of Central America, The Poppy Field by Caroline Kellems promises an adventure in a country where breathtaking beauty and debilitating poverty meet, forming a mutual bond. The contrast can be quite disorientating to newcomers, and missionary couple Paul and Katherine Whitehall are no exception. Excited, the pair can't wait to start their new journey but when a violent encounter ensues, Katherine quickly changes her mind. Shaken, she voices her concern for their safety, only to be met with stubborn disregard. When their passports disappear, Katherine realizes something more sinister is at play. But why? And is their landlord, Alfonso, eager to help or does he have darker motives? Fearing the worst, Katherine prays that her instincts are wrong, dreading the outcome for her family if it isn't.

Fraught with drama and intrigue, this fast-paced novel highlights Guatemalan culture and its exotic vibe, enticing the reader's senses. With religion being the main theme, a lot is centered around different types of worship and their meaning, inviting debate. Classism also plays a role in the plot as the country's poor suffer immensely at the hands of their corrupt government. The characters were quite engaging, particularly Katherine who proved that a mother's love should never be underestimated, and Pancho, who remained loyal despite his underlying bitterness and resentment. I recommend The Poppy Field to romantics and those curious about different religions and their practices. Readers will also find the startling differences between first and third-world countries very interesting, and even disillusioning.

Lucinda E Clarke

In The Poppy Field by Caroline Kellems, after an accident, rock star band member Philip Whitehall has a vision, urging him to become a missionary. He takes his wife Katherine, daughter Katy, and son Justin to Guatemala to preach. While Katherine, in particular, expects their circumstances to be different from their home in the United States, none of them anticipate a dilapidated hut with few amenities in the middle of nowhere. Philip continually says, "God will provide," but the rest of the family is not convinced. Before they even reach their new home, they are held up by criminals. On arrival, and after more mishaps, they are saved from the worst by their very charming landlord Alfonso, who resides in a palatial, highly fortified estate with stables, a pool, a shooting range, plus all the usual high-tech gadgets. But things are not quite what they seem. As the evidence mounts up pointing to the source of Alfonso’s wealth, Philip refuses to believe the truth and neglects his family in favor of his fervent missionary work.

The Poppy Field by Caroline Kellems is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. I can’t praise it enough. It’s a tale of a new life in a lesser-known country, and besides being an adventure story, it highlights the missionary’s character in viewing life through rose-colored glasses. You will experience the explosive undercurrents of the situation, and, from the title alone, the reader is way ahead of the Whitehall family in realizing the truth. However, besides the storyline, the author has drawn vivid pictures with few words that take the reader right into the scene: "A mahogany stairway curves up from the gleaming tan-and-rose-colored marble tiles that glitter with the reflection from dangling chandeliers." There are also many descriptions of the flora and fauna in Guatemala that paint vivid pictures of life in a country where the author herself lives. A truly exciting book that I highly recommend.

K.C. Finn

The Poppy Field is a work of fiction in the women’s fiction, interpersonal drama, and slice-of-life subgenres. It is best suited to the adult reading audience. Penned by author Caroline Kellems, this enticing and emotive narrative thrusts readers into the whirlwind life of Katherine, upending her comfortable existence in Indiana when her husband Phil decides to become a missionary in Guatemala. The narrative swiftly evolves into a tale of survival, unveiling the complex layers of family secrets and societal challenges. Katherine's journey takes us through highs and lows as she grapples with cultural differences, her husband's absence, and the dangers lurking around every corner.

Author Caroline Kellems has crafted a detailed and dramatic work that guides us through the rich and atmospheric landscapes of Guatemala, intertwining the beauty of the surroundings with the harsh realities of violence and narco-trafficking. This exciting balance of elements gives the plot its sudden twists and moments of tense, action-driven narration, which is wonderfully balanced against the slow-building, introspective arc of Katherine coming to terms with her new life and reforming her perspective as a result. The dialogue and close narration style enhance this wonderful juxtaposition of heartwarming and tense moments, keeping readers on the edge of their seats as Katherine tries to protect her family while entangled in unexpected relationships. The book is a potent exploration of resilience, the impact of choices, and the strength required to navigate a world where survival often demands more than we're prepared to give. Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend The Poppy Field to fans of women’s fiction who are seeking an accomplished, highly original work with a unique blend of influences.

Frank Mutuma

It has been their dream to do missionary work, but Katherine is having serious doubts after their ordeal on the first day. The journey to their destination is hard, and when they get there, basic resources are scarce, which makes Katherine even more frustrated. Phil, Katherine's husband, is always optimistic and believes everything is the will of God. Their immediate neighbor and landlord is Alfonso. From their first encounter, he is very cordial to them and even tells them not to pay rent. Alfonso helps with a lot of development projects in the community, and his home is a fortress with extensive security features. Why is he so obsessed with security, and what is the source of his wealth? To find out more about the experiences of the Whitehall family in Guatemala, get a copy of The Poppy Field by Caroline Kellems.

The Poppy Field by Caroline Kellems is a fast-paced page-turner with enough twists and turns to keep me on the edge of my seat. I loved the themes covered and the unique approach that made the well-developed characters very relatable. The book is thought-provoking on many social issues and got me thinking about issues such as tolerance and the impact of issues like poverty on society. The narration is excellent, and the writing style is highly engaging, with well-crafted dialogue that brings the story to life. The vivid descriptions of events and emotions of the characters helped create a mental picture of what was happening. I cannot wait to read something else by Caroline Kellems.