A book is a meeting place between the author and the reader and the reader brings almost as much creative power to bear on the book as the person who has written it. ~Salley Vickers

A wickedly sophisticated novel by a wickedly sophisticated writer. I just started reading it and this book is deep. Layers and layers deep. Like a ‘beautiful head-high swell over the perfect sandbar some forty yards out on a glassy day’ deep. Something like that, anyway.

Tripp York, The Other Journal: An Intersection of Theology and Culture

There are times when books come across our paths that seem unlikely ventures into literature, only to open them and be so captivated with the sheer beauty of the command of the English language that turning the pages is as much a joy of discovering the style and quality of the writing as is the story itself.

Ulrica Hume spins gold out of ink. She obviously is a highly educated person, rich in appreciation of philosophy, religion, literature, the science of color theory etc because she is able to so easily weave threads from all these arenas into her story in such a way that allows us all to learn as much about matters outside her book as we do about her characters she so surely paints.

An Uncertain Age happens to be the age of our heroine (age 48 in years) who, disenfranchised and disenchanted with life in California, travels to France for mental refuge (think ‘Justine’ from Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, as that is the name assigned our narrator). In a near Agatha Christie atmosphere on a train she encounters a strange English bloke and that happenstance meeting between two seemingly disparate characters blossoms into an adventure that takes our heroine into a plain of unexpected self discovery, allows the reader to learn about the junction between Catholicism/Anglicanism, Gnosticism, and Hinduism all in a manner that involves the introduction of new characters who enhance the mystery of the disappearance of the English bloke where the story begins. It is a mystery, a craving for love at an uncertain age when aspects of emotional stability and ardor seem out of reach, and a travelogue to some of the world’s most interesting proscenium arches where Hume stages her intricate novel.

If the story at times strays away from linear development it matters little, as the writing of every page of this book is a visual and mental pleasure. This is the work of a writer of substance: where will she take us next?

Grady Harp, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer, 5 stars

…a spiritual odyssey…

Susan Blumberg-Kason, IndieReader, 4 starsIR-sticker

This book took me by surprise as being not so much a story about physical pilgrimage to St James’s shrine as more about spiritual searching by the narrator Justine, for a new way of life, through meeting people who are Hindu, Buddhist, lapsed Christian and agnostic. The characters are well drawn, rather eccentric but I thought believable.

It develops into a mystery story and keeps one turning the pages in the hopes of being led to Santiago. Americ Picaud makes an unexpected appearance and helps to compound the mystery. As the title suggest, it is a book about being at the crossroads of life and finding a new path. In this way it is very much about a personal pilgrimage and therefore similar to the state of mind of many people who take the road to Santiago not really knowing where it will lead them.

Christine Pleasants, Confraternity of Saint James Bulletin (September 2013 / No 123), London, England

A story about life on life’s terms, with all its uncertainty. I’m not really much of a fiction reader, and the spirituality of the book is probably too subtle for a religion blog, so I don’t know that it was a good fit for me, really … yet once I began reading, I had a hard time setting it aside.

This story is a quest for purpose, by a middle-aged woman who seems to have lost ties with everything and everyone that once gave life meaning. She toys with religion, on a sort of intellectual level, trying to break through the intellectual shell to the experiential. She and her new friends find themselves “seeking something that is one breath, one heartbeat, one step away,” but with different approaches.

As it turns out, the spiritual side braids with the mundaneness of life, and the two cannot be torn apart. There is sadness in the story. It soon becomes apparent that even the most imaginative author would destroy the book’s theme by trying to tidy up all its confusion by book’s end…so we are left with a sort of melancholy realism. The draw of the characters, and the bizarre connection I felt to them, leaves me shaking my head. I can’t figure out if I’m happy to have read the story or not. I suspect I’ve fallen prey to precisely the emotions Hume wanted to evoke.

Lest my late-night meandering thoughts leave the wrong impression, I want to be clear that Hume writes with intelligence and feeling. A well-written, intriguing read.

Lee Harmon, The Dubious Disciple
The Dubious Disciple

Ulrica Hume has produced a début novel, An Uncertain Age, that stands firmly in the emerging visionary fiction genre.

…Meandering through the maze of philosophical, literary and artistic quotes and references, a reader stumbles across hidden gems of wisdom.

The string that holds these gems together is Hume’s beguiling prose, while the cast of unconventional characters, as well as Justine’s struggle to find meaning in both the external, temporal world around her and in her inner, spiritual world, gently lead the reader on their own journey of both discovery and understanding.

This intertexuality, which drives the plot forward in the shape of philosophical discussions between the characters, reflects not only the interconnectedness of the world’s religions but also the continuum of the many ages that humanity has been searching for spiritual meaning through a connection to the Divine (in whatever shape or form).

Dense with subtle symbolism, ranging from an archaic cobbler to bees and colours, An Uncertain Age is a multifaceted book that encourages the reader to pause, ponder and philosophise on the cause and effect of our own life choices.

Judy Croome, For Books’ Sake

Ulrica Hume’s debut novel, An Uncertain Age, is a hefty, yet delightful surprise. She blends the mystery and love genres and sprinkles spirituality throughout to create a story to be enjoyed on several levels. Clearly, Hume cares about the characters she’s created. Readers will also care. What happened to Miles Peabody? It is his disappearance, and the subsequent questioning of Justine, that sets the story into motion. A pilgrimage, a hero’s journey, a mystery, and a love story all describe An Uncertain Age. Hume’s care with character, story and at the sentence level shows that she cares about her readers. The many references to people, events, locations and spirituality might seem overwhelming at times, but it offers the reader who is unfamiliar with bees or the True Cross or Guernica, for example, the opportunity to discover something new. Readers learn about the missing Mr. Peabody through the interaction of Justine with others, especially with Dara and Gwynneth. Well-crafted, intriguing, witty, poignant and full of literary and historical references, this book is lovely in its paper version or less weighty in its electronic version.

Trina Drotar, Sacramento Press/Book Talk

I found An Uncertain Age to be a very intriguing and compelling read, rich with historical and literary references. This, combined with the narrator’s spiritual introspection, makes for an analytical and thus slower read. Some of the prominent events and places discussed are centered around Catholic history, such as the persecution of Cathars, the story of Abélard and Héloïse, Chartres Cathedral, and the Basque region.

The themes of love, reality, fate, God and intent contribute to the story’s multitudinous layers and mysterious air. I highly enjoyed Justine and Miles’s rather deeply poetic and philosophical conversations (or is it relationship?) which—despite their varied backgrounds—highlights their shared appreciation of history and literature. There is a quote which I feel carries a lot of truth and which is worth reflecting upon: “I am always surprised how life has a way of making catalysts of common things.” (pg. 267) Among other subjects, it may inspire discussion surrounding the way the characters are brought together: chance or fate?

A skillfully crafted novel that’s well worth exploring.

Natacha P., Goodreads, 5 stars

An Uncertain Age

Whoever wrote the back cover blurb for Ulrica Hume’s An Uncertain Age did her a grave disservice. There, the plot is described in the simplest terms: a woman finds a possible soul mate while on a trip, but he suddenly disappears after asking her to join a pilgrimage. While technically accurate, this description barely skims the surface of this deeply satisfying novel. The lives of Hume’s two main characters seemingly parallel those of a medieval priest and nun, or do they? Throughout this novel, Hume liberally sprinkles numerous intriguing recurrent themes, of which water, color, and bees are but a few. She manages to deftly weave together the world’s major religious traditions in a way that makes the reader want to see how the novel plays out. Finally, Hume paces and structures her novel to perfectly complement the plot.

As the foregoing suggests, An Uncertain Age is not a light, fast read. It would make a wonderful book club choice where its depth could provide fodder for rich discussions. Even absent a book club, however, An Uncertain Age is a novel well worth the reader’s time.

Annie Peters, CityBookReview.com, 5 stars

…The strengths of An Uncertain Age include the many layers of meaning flowing through the steps Justine, Miles and the other rather eccentric characters take while seamlessly sharing prospective routes to fulfillment that are traditionally at odds with each other. Hume’s novel is well plotted, well crafted and well researched. Some readers may be turned away at Hume’s characters’ heavy reliance on quoting and pondering scholars and religious leaders. To some extent, the philosophy delays the story.

At the same time, the philosophy drives the story. An Uncertain Age has the depth and power to inspire readers to ponder their own choices while waiting for the moment when each of Hume’s characters moves forward in faith or certainty instead of doing what Abelard and Héloïse would do. Hume’s prose makes this journey a rewarding trip.

Malcolm R. Campbell, Malcolm’s Round Table

Fascinating & different This is not a book for everyone, but having said that everyone should read it. A love story, yes; but one with a difference. Protagonists who hold your attention and interest from the start. But it is more than a love story; it is the story of searching, for life and reason, for god and man. You will find that the story, the search, by turns holds one, fascinates, bewilders and delights. This is a book to make you pause and ponder and think about your own path in life. The research, the scholarship, sits lightly. No matter what stage you are in life, from this book you will learn. ~Amazon.com customer review, 5 stars

Doris Lessing meets Umberto Eco This is a jewel of a book, a transformational novel that simultaneously deals with the emotional baggage of entering middle age and the transformation of the soul according to obscure Christian and Hindu traditions. Both realistic and occult, fascinating ideas and strange wisdom. A bit of a ball of yarn (pun intended), with some loose threads never quite coming together (or maybe if I read it again…), but full of interesting and identifiable characters. The author clearly did her homework, both geographical and historical. No footnotes, so best read with a Wikipedia at your side.~Amazon.com customer review, 4 stars

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Through generations, loss and uncertainty is what unites us. An Uncertain Age is a novel following the romance of Miles and Justine as they cross their lives and generations to find something more for it all. With her dreams of artistry escaping her, Justine looks to retired Miles to find some stability in her life, but when he disappears, Justine may need to delve into what she hopes she has forgotten. An Uncertain Age is a thoughtful and very much recommended pick for any general fiction collection. Highly recommended.

Midwest Book Review, Reviewer’s Choice/Small Press Bookwatch