I love this premise. In the backwoods of Kentucky there is a library that nobody goes to so thanks to President Roosevelt there are some packhorse librarians that take books into the woods straight to the people that need them. Now mix in a naive young woman from the Chicago area that is used to electricity and running water and then add in some murder, mystery, feuding families, a crooked sheriff and underhanded coal mine owners. All of a sudden poor Allie is covering up a supposed murder, taking care of the library since the librarian is dead and looking after the 101 year old "mother" of the librarian as she tries to figure out why she is even still in Kentucky!
I have loved almost every book by Lynn Austin that I've read. And while this one is really good and entertaining and the main character, Allie, is a total hoot, it is not quite as epic as some of the other ones I've read by Lynn. Still good, just not quite epic.
Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin
What an excellent book! The first chapters I could not help but laugh out loud and towards the end the tears came. Between than there was mystery and suspense as well. The story is told from the view of Alice Grace Ripley, a twenty-two year old woman who is lost in her world of books. Her boyfriend of one year, Gordon, breaks up after he catches her reading during a funeral at his parents funeral parlor. He tells her she lives more in her world of fiction than the real world. And the next day she loses her job at the beloved town library because of the depression. After moping around she has the choice of going with her Pastor father to help the poor or with her mom to see her somewhat deranged Aunt Lydia. She chooses to visit her aunt, and that opens the door to where God leads her next.
Alice has been collecting books to send to Kentucky. When her aunt mentions going to a spa in Kentucky, she asks to go along. So they pack up and go. Alice is sure Uncle Cecil is running from gangsters and it makes quite a funny story from Blue Island, Illinois to Acorn Kentucky. They drop her off at the library where she plans on staying with the librarian Leslie MacDougal. A scruffy bear of a man helps unload her books and Uncle Cecil takes off immediately. Problem one: Leslie is a he not a she. Problem 2: Acorn has no motel let alone anything else. And those are only the start of her problems.
Alice has not choice but to stay at the house/library even though Mack is not happy about it. After he is shot the next day she meets the house other inhabitant, Lillie the 100 year old woman. She ends up staging Mack's funeral, learning to ride a horse to deliver books so she can help bring things to Mack while he hides out until they find his murderer, tries to help end a sixty year feud and those are just some of the things that happen on Alice's adventure. She finds herself in town with no electricity or inside water so her work load is heavy. She has no time for reading but quickly finds out real life can be quite different than the books.
This is just a well rounded book, humorous at times and sad a others, there are mysteries and adventures. All in one.
**Received from Bethany House for review
This is one of those rare books that captures your mind and your heart! The characters are so real and feel so alive. One of the most enjoyable parts of the reading of this book lies in the way Ms Austin so masterfully captured the phrasing of Appalachian speech. It is the rare writer who can do so without turning it into a caricature of the people that live in this region... this author gracefully and beautifully avoided that trap.
Allie has managed to create a life for herself where she goes untouched by the nitty gritty reality of life. She lives vicariously through her beloved books. There does come a point in which life must be faced and Allie gets an abrupt introduction to what living really means. Her involvement in a small-town intrigue and different way of life opens her eyes and her world.
I loved the way this book flowed and how the characters drew me in. I finished the last sentence with a sigh of both satisfaction with the story and of regret that the book was over. For me, there is no higher praise for a book.
There was a great build up in this book and the whole time you are curious as to the answers to the many questions that spark throughout your mind as you read it. The beginning of this book was hilarious to me. A girl named Alice (Allie as she is called sometimes) has her nose stuck in books all the time. She pushes away everyone else because of her love for books (and doesn't seem to understand what all this talk about The Depression is about). You will most likely get annoyed with the lead character in the beginning of the book.
In a sporadic impulse, she decides to set off to Kentucky's Appalachia to bring books she's been collecting in a library donation box in her hometown of Blue Island, IL (5 crates of them). The adventure of her life happens to fall in her lap as soon as she arrives. I love how her character develops in this! You also gain an understanding of the characters and a connection to them. Sure I do have two questions in the end of this book that are minor, but the whole premise of the book is beautifully done.
This is a Christian fiction novel in case you were wondering. I had fun reading it.