Fiction, Young Adult

The Secret Sense of Wildflower, by Susan Gabriel

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A wonderful, heartbreaking story full of depth, tears and redemption. It took just 3 hours to read.

Wildflower is Louisa May McAllister. Yes, Little Women is her mother’s favorite book and yes, she has sisters named Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. That is part of the book’s whimsy. Most of its charm is captured in the 1940’s language of the south, so much so that I found myself reading in my head with a regional accent.

But this is Appalachia and life there is harsh. The McAllisters are mourning the loss of their daddy, dead nearly one year after an accident at the sawmill. Nell, their mama, drifts from day to day, never shedding a tear. Wildflower is part physical orphan through her daddy’s death, but part emotional orphan from her mother. Confidantes are few.

When things are lighter, I felt like I was reading a hybrid of Cold Sassy Tree and Christy. Wildflower reminds me a lot of Will Tweedy in Cold Sassy–observant, with many layers unseen by the surrounding adults. There is, however, a brief but horrible scene that robs Wildflower of her childhood and her innocence. The “secret sense” she prided herself in tried to warn her, but she ignored it. That decision changes everything.

By sheer happenstance, I’ve recently read several books with strong, resourceful female protagonists. The Secret Sense of Wildflower continues this trend. It is, at different times, darling and funny, but also raw and revealing. The language matures alongside Wildflower, becoming more stoic as her reality shifts from child to adult.

I recommend the book, but know what you’re about to read. Teens and adults alike will find it powerfully moving.

9/10 Stars

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