Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Ursula, Under” as Want to Read:
Ursula, Under
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Ursula, Under

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,321 Ratings  ·  252 Reviews
Once in a while, a first-time novelist dares to write bravely and big. Ingrid Hill has done just that with her breathtaking first novel.
In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a dangerous rescue effort draws the ears and eyes of the entire country. When a two-year-old girl falls down a mine shaft it is as if all hope for life on the planet is bound up in her rescue. Little Ursula
Published (first published 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Ursula, Under, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Ursula, Under

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Oct 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I have for some time now been reading books to illuminate the meaning of life, here was a break to turn that coin on its other side and ask of its value. To ponder meaning, after all, assumes life has value. And if it does, are all of our lives to be valued equally?

When 2 1/2-year-old Ursula falls into an old mine shaft in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, media and curiosity seekers swarm the scene, and not one alone asks about the mixed race child born of poor parents - is she worth saving?
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : Ursula, Under - Nevisande : Ingrid Hill - ISBN : 143035452 - ISBN13 : 9780143035459 - Dar 476 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2004
Diana Higgins
Jul 28, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I just could not read this book. I liked the beginning, even though the overwritten phrases continually distracted me from the story, but then when the story changed to that of the Chinese alchemist I almost gave up right then.

I did stick with it through that part. Let me just say that I LOVE the premise of this book, that each life is beautiful and valuable, that each one of us is only here because of the interesting and unique ancestors that came before us. It was just the writing! The Chinese
Jul 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is such a great, great read. I tried to convince everyone to pick it up for summer a couple years ago, but people kept not finishing it. I believe that the third chapter, set in ancient China, is the sticking point. Everyone thought the rest of the novel was going to be as dry and inexplicable as that one. But it's not, at all.
Jul 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love stories that weave together
I was on the fence about giving this book a 4 or 5 star review. I'll give it a 5 star recommendation, because I think it is very worth the read and might likely be someone's favorite book of all time if they give it a try after seeing a nice high recommendation. I think most people would give it four or five stars.

It is the story of a two and a half year old who falls down a well. But, as the book says, what you see of an iceberg is only what is above the surface and the iceberg is formed by the
Oct 05, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction_modern
I really liked the architecture of the book and the writing style was nice. I mean, the way that Ursula and her ancient ancestors' stories were woven together was unique and original. But, the author failed to get me to care enough about the characters to lose myself in the book. I just didn't really care about what happened to any of them, which is sad, because there were some interesting characters there.
Jun 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't written a review on Goodreads in a long time, but this book warrants it. This is a behemoth of a book. . . okay, not really. It's 476 pages. But it's so very intricately woven with random threads going off this way and that, it takes a great deal of energy to stay focused while reading it. It doesn't move quickly and is definitely not plot-driven.

However, this is a beautiful novel, if a bit too wordy at times. I got bogged down in ancient China and nearly gave up. I'm glad I didn't.

Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: midwest
Hill, who lives in Iowa City, has been in several church school classes with me (including the one I taught) and contributed good insights. The book has some beautifully written passages & scenes that don't hold together all that well & is undermined by some overwiting, some repetition of themes, & a lot of (literally) incredible coincidences. The story centers around a little girl (& her family) who falls down an abandoned mine shaft in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. From beginning ...more
This was such a good idea. I love collections of short stories masquerading as novels! There is one contemporary story interspersed with historical stories, each one featuring different ancestors in Ursula's family tree. The premise is wonderful, and is handled really well too. I don't know what order it was written in (it unfolds more or less chronologically) but the writing actually seems to improve over the course of the book. Either that or her style - full of interruptions like this one - g ...more
Jul 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointed. Had I not been encouraged to persist with this book, I admit I would have put it down after the first couple of pages. But then it grabbed me by the pulomonary and I have been disappointed every time I have had to put it down.

This book feeds my penchant for misplaced nostalgia through a series of characters who are connected by blood and really nothing else. Each chapter is devoted to one person in the blood line of a little girl, who has fallen down an unused mining shaft. Each ch
Apr 12, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The overall theme of this book captured my nostalgic side. I loved the idea that all of us are only here because our ancestors somehow made it possible by their meeting of each other, and were then able to produce at least one child to carry on the family line, so from that perspective the book really made me appreciate the struggle of my own ancestors. I also enjoyed most of the characters from Ursula's bloodline, some of which had beautiful love stories attached which I'm a sucker for. I did o ...more
Celeste Ng
This was recommended to me by a bookseller (at the amazing Porter Square Books!) and I must say, booksellers know the best hidden gems. I'd never heard of this book or author, but it's a big, ambitious novel, spanning millenia and exuberantly written. It starts with a tragedy--two-year-old Ursula Wong falls down an unused mine shaft in Michigans Upper Peninsula--but then dives into Ursula's genealogy, examining all the twists and turns of fate in her ancestors' lives that led to this one child. ...more
Sep 07, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I'm going to make it through this one. It is a great premise, telling the stories of generations of inter-connected lives that lead to one particular family and a little girl who falls down a mine shaft. But in the execution, I found it difficult to keep caring about the main plot while being constantly led in other (more interesting) directions. Also the prose was quite painful at times, over-written to the point that I found myself skimming to get to the relevant sections.

Jennifer Doyle
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mmd
So, so good! This is the story of Ursula, a little girl who falls down an abandoned mine shaft. From ancient China, Finland, across oceans, in missions and shacks, this story examines her rich history and lineage that allows her to even exist. I loved the complexity and layers to the story of Ursula's life, imagining what a miracle that any of us exist. I will admit that the first story of the Chinese alchemist was the hardest to get through as other reviews have mentioned, but it was still an e ...more
I appreciated all her research and liked learning about quirkly little facts (who knew there was a lepers colony in Sweden? Not me). I made it a 3 primarily for the reseach/information in it. There were portions that were mind-numbing. Beth was right though--some of the comments and references were bizarre (the anal sphincter comment in particular) and out of place. It was like she learned a new word or heard a new song and just had to include it.
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-bingo-2015
Katherine wins, this was excellent. Though I have to say: it did not click for me until at least 1/4 of the way in, but after that, I was hooked. Just thinking about the thousands of stories that came before you were born is both overwhelming and exhilarating. This would make an excellent book club selection!
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Enjoyed this book. A nice set of stories going back in history. All the stories are about ancestors, relatives, and contemporaries of a toddler girl awaiting rescue from an abandoned mine shaft in northern MI. My only criticism might be that the "bad guy" lady is too cartoonishly bad.
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A masterpiece--seriously, one of the best American novels written in the last twenty years. Give copies to everyone you know. They will thank you. I can't recommend this outstanding book enough, and I can't think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy it.
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, michigan
I checked this out of the library because 1. my name is Ursula and 2. it says it takes place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where I was living at that particular moment.

Unfortunately, not much of the action actually takes place in the UP. The supposed main story is about a little girl named Ursula who falls down an old, unmarked mine shaft. Her father is Chinese American, and her mother Finnish American. This is important because the book immediately leaves Ursula to her unknown fate and ta
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. The idea of this was really neat, but it got rambly at times. A toddler falls down a mineshaft. The father says "She's our miracle. God wouldn't just let her go!" A woman watching the rescue on tv asks why are the rescuers putting so much effort into this "half-breed trailer trash." The book gives us a emphatic, sweeping support of the father's view that her life is a miracle - it tells short stories of centuries of Ursula's ancestors, all the people who came close to not reproducing ...more
Kevin L.
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am truly torn after finishing reading this book. A young girl falls down a hole and her family struggles with the ultimate question of her survival, or not. Sounds intriguing, yes?

Unfortunately, the story, of which the book is named, seems to be less than the 10% of the entire book! The book is like changing the channel between the modern day Ursula tragedy and characters tracing from ancient China connecting to modern-day Ursula.

I admire what the author set out to do, and at times, the story
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2018
The structure of this book is kind of different, but it's interesting. The novel begins and ends with Ursula Wong, a four year old girl who falls down a mine shaft. The chapters in between tell the stories of Ursula's ancestors: her parents and grandparents, but also distant ancestors. We go back hundreds and sometimes thousands of years to China, Finland, California, Canada.

This book is well written and an interesting story, but it just didn't capture me like I had hoped it would. Also, I felt
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
This was such a slow slog for me. The writing is excellent and the story is unique. I think the novel is unusual but interesting. It tells the tall of Ursula, a small girl who has fallen down a mine shift in present day. The story alternates with stories of her various ancestors through the years. I'm not sure why it took me so long to read it. At times I had to talk myself into continuing. I'm glad I did.
Liz Leiby
I did not really like this book, but 3 stars because I can tell it’s well written and that some people would enjoy this. It was good storytelling, but no plot. Minimal character development. Just close to 500 pages of people’s stories. Again, not for me, but could be for someone who doesn’t need big or many plot points.
May 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a saga. Although I enjoyed the writing style, I found I was getting lost and confused in the various story lines. The book was thought provoking -- we are all products of past generations -- but I don't think I'm enough interested in my own family history to read such a lengthy book about it.
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely got better as I went along. Multiple generations and storylines seems to be very popular right now and I find it getting tedious. Though the writer paints a strong picture and is engaging.
Stephen Gallup
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One summer day in 2003, a little girl on an outing with her parents tumbles down an abandoned mine shaft in the backwoods of northern Michigan. Justin and Annie, who’d been only steps away, enter panic mode. The rest of the world gradually begins responding in the ways it always does when such things occur, mobilizing rescue workers and eager media people, and, far back on the periphery, emitting unsympathetic commentary about the expenditure of so much fuss over mere “halfbreed trailer trash.”

Beth Cato
Ursula,Under is an odd yet beautifully written book. It begins by introducing little Ursula, age two. Her mother, who was crippled in a hit-and-run accident as a young girl, wasn't supposed to be able to have children. Her father, of mixed Chinese descent, adores his little girl and vows to do a better job than his own father, who abandoned his family when he was a toddler. Then, on a visit to the Michigan Upper Peninsula, the unthinkable happens - Ursula, laughing and happy, runs across a field ...more
Megan Craig
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 27, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I never totally warmed up to this book. The story is about a young couple with a small child (supposedly age 2 but that is unrealistic - I would say more like 3 or 4)who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. On a picnic the child, Ursula, falls down an abandoned mine shaft. During the next approximately 24 hours we see the rescue effort (in more detail that I wanted at times), the parents (excellent portrayal of how parents deal with this tragedy), and also - for the majority of the book - th ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS: Exclusive Chapter Sampler
  • Tom Bedlam
  • Beatitude
  • After Such Kindness
  • Family Roundabout
  • Four Feet, Two Sandals
  • Unexpected Love: God's Heart Revealed in Jesus' Conversations with Women
  • And She Was
  • The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands
  • Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal
  • Hunt for the Bamboo Rat
  • Watch Me Disappear
  • The Sweetheart Season
  • Heart of Coal
  • Cheyenne Again
  • The Way to Sattin Shore
  • Where We Have Hope: A Memoir of Zimbabwe
  • Wait for Me, Watch for Me, Eula Bee

Fiction Deals

  • War Brides
    $3.99 $2
  • Bluebeard
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Madonnas of Leningrad
    $10.74 $2.99
  • Orphan Train Girl
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Want Not
    $14.95 $2.99
  • Finding Rebecca
    $5.49 $1.99
  • The Twelve-Mile Straight
    $14.99 $2.99
  • The Long Way Home
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Cafe by the Sea
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Everybody's Son
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Restaurant Critic's Wife
    $3.99 $2
  • The Word Game
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Ahab's Wife, or The Star-Gazer
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Cats Are Weird: And More Observations
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Wake Up
    $4.99 $2
  • The Way to London: A Novel of World War II
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Abby's Journey
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Ask the Dust
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Kings of Broken Things
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Saving Abby
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Vanessa and Her Sister
    $13.99 $2.99
  • The King's Mistress
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Midnight Sun (The Northern Lights Series, No 3)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Cement Garden (Ian McEwan Series Book 2)
    $8.99 $2.99
  • The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Under the Wide and Starry Sky
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen
    $14.95 $1.99
  • The Cove
    $7.49 $1.99
  • The Secret Healer (The Secret Healer #1)
    $3.49 $0.99
  • Fat Chance
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Jailbird
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
    $15.95 $1.99
  • Mrs. Saint and the Defectives
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Fire by Night
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Bagombo Snuff Box
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Unkillable Kitty O'Kane
    $3.99 $1.99
  • If I Was Your Girl
    $9.99 $2.99