REVIEW: THE WILDLING SISTERS, BY EVE CHASE

 

Four sisters. One summer. A lifetime of secrets.
 
When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.

Fifty years later, Jesse is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jesse finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.


My Thoughts: A story that weaves the past with the present while spotlighting those secrets, lies, and broken connections that make all the difference between happiness and pain, The Wildling Sisters captured my interest immediately.

We begin with a moment in time back in 1959, watching while something mysterious is happening with four sisters, struggling to hide something.

Fast forward to the present, to Jessie and Will, a newly blended family that includes Bella, a sulky teenage daughter from Will’s previous marriage, and Jessie and Will’s toddler Romy, adorable, cherished, and the object of Bella’s jealousy.

What brought each of these families to the country estate named Applecote Manor, that place where disturbing things happened in a long ago summer?

The four Wilde sisters, nicknamed The Wildlings by their uncle, are spending the summer there while their mother is working in Marrakech. They discover that their cousin Audrey’s disappearance five years before is a defining event that mars this new summer, and suddenly they are caught up in what can happen to a family after a significant loss…and trying to fill the holes in the tapestry of their lives with the answers they seek.

For Will and Jessie, they need to leave London, where Bella has gotten into trouble. They are hoping the country will be a peaceful place of healing. But Bella’s problems are much greater than they can even imagine.

As we travel back and forth in time, the pieces of the puzzle come together, along with a kind of closure. 4 stars.

***

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ALL THE UGLY & WONDERFUL THINGS, BY BRYN GREENWOOD

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Wavy’s entry into the world was a precursor of things to come. She was born in the back seat of a stranger’s car, when her laboring mother was picked up while hitchhiking. Meth addict/dealing mother and father, Val and Liam Quinn, were the epitome of emotionally challenged, and as parents, they were so negligent that others often stepped into the parenting role. Liam’s various girlfriends, one of his employees (Kellen), and sometimes Val’s sister Brenda.

As well-meaning as Brenda might have been, she did all the wrong things, in my opinion, exacerbating an already tenuous situation.

Alternating narrators tell the tale of Wavy’s life, beginning in the 1970s. Set in Texas and Oklahoma, we are gifted with the life view of each character as each perspective shifted. We then add a few more pieces to the puzzle of all their lives.

Time moves forward, and we gradually see changes in Wavy, from the little girl who doesn’t seem to eat and hardly ever talks, into a burgeoning young woman who appears in many ways older than her teen years would suggest. Her small stature and frequent silences, however, are deceptively child-like.

The relationship between her and Kellen began serendipitously when his motorcycle crashed near her when she was star-gazing. Immediately they connected over their interest in the stars, and for Kellen, Wavy began to talk, to eat, and to realize that she liked being touched.

When the outside world sees what is going on between Wavy and Kellen, all hell breaks loose. No matter how you might feel about the relationship between the two of them, the fact that the author has been showing us the growing connection between them as a gradual and loving thing, you might find yourself saddened by what happens next.

In a story that spans the 1970s, the 1980s, and into the 1990s, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things kept me engaged and changed my perspective on events that would have been troubling in my professional life as a social worker. Was it possible that sometimes we might have to look at a situation and a relationship in ways not proscribed by our society? Is it possible that a relationship that might look “dirty” is anything but? I very happily kept reading until the very satisfying conclusion, rooting for the two of them.

cropped again 5***