Early on with my book reviewing I had to make a decision as to what criteria I would use with my marking system. I mean to be honest, there are so many great books out there by so many great authors that I could give everyone 5 stars and feel fine about it. But when I started to pay attention a bit more, I found that there were 2 things that really helped me pick out the 5 star books. The first was writing that truly transported me to that place created by the author that I just couldn’t wait to get back to so that I could see what those characters were up to and how everything works out. The second thing was even more impactful, that Christian fiction book that has the power to hit me right where I am and speak a word of truth in my life that actually make me take a look at myself and ask God to help me change something. Lynn Austin has consistently done that in all of the books that I have read by her and Wonderland Creek is no exception.
Wonderlnd Creek opens with young Alice Grace Ripley, a recently hired librarian from Blue Island Illinois, being unceremoniously dumped by her year- long boyfriend Gordon. I’m afraid that Alice was expecting a ring soon, not to be “let go”. And unfortunately, right after being “let go” by Gordon, she is “let go” by her job as well. This novel is set in 1936 so the library where she was working was going through tough times financially as the depression was affecting the whole country. (Sound familiar?) As a result, Alice is left wondering what to do with herself. From all of her extensive reading, Alice discovers that in the hills of Kentucky, they are in desperate need of books. She had already been heading up a book drive at her library for this need and since her aunt and uncle were heading to Kentucky , she decides to hitch a ride with them and deliver the books herself to a little town called Acorn , Kentucky. She arrives to this very rural, and rustic little town, if you blinked you would miss it, and marches right over to Leslie MacDougal’s house, the resident librarian with whom she had been corresponding about the need for the books. She rashly decided to come without waiting to see if she was invited, only to discover that “Leslie McDougal” is a “he”, not a “she”. She is left by her aunt and uncle in this little town for 2 weeks, but that 2 weeks gets extended as she needs to help out with various things such as being a packhorse librarian and traveling a route to the different families of Acorn (who happen to be incredibly divided over a 100 year long feud regarding buried treasure). She ends up in one scrape after another with having to learn how to exist with no electricity, learning to ride a horse, and oh yeah help with the staging of the fake death of the resident librarian Leslie MacDougal “Mac”. Life is not boring in Acorn, Kentucky.
The characters in this book are a pleasure to read. Alice has a lot of growing up to do in terms of engaging in life with others, more that keeping her nose stuck in a book. As she grows and matures and learns the joy of helping others, loving others, and truly living life with those around you, you can’t help but come to really love this character. Probably my favorite character is Lillie, a former slave, who really becomes a mentor to Alice, and needs to push Alice several times in her growing process, but her storyline is fascinating to read as it unfolds as well. Leslie MacDougal or “Mac” is also a lover of books as the local librarian, but has struck that right balance of reading great stories and living a great story. He is definitely a character that grows on you as well.
All I can say is it is no wonder that Lynn Austin has won 7 Christy Awards as she writes with truth, humor and a clear moral to love and engage with those that God has brought your way. I definitely recommend this book for those that love great historical fiction
I was graciously provided a complimentary copy of this book by Bethany House publishing in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review.