How do you get good reviews for books? Sometimes you simply do your best to write a really good book. The Secret of Wildflower took me 12 years from start to publication, with a whole lot of revising and help from first readers and editors. Getting good reviews for books I write, like the one below, makes the wait almost worth it. In case you’re wondering, this is the kind of thing that makes my day.
Here’s the review:
When Fiction Sings…We Must Applaud
I’ve read a lot of coming-of-age novels that were poignant, heart-warming and full of the kind of quixotic things a child deduces from her environment, but I’ve never read a story as dramatically understated that sings so powerfully and honestly about the sense of life that stands in tribute to bravery as Susan Gabriel’s The Secret Sense of Wildflower.
As others have noted, Louisa May “Wildflower” McAlister is the youngest child of Tennessee mountain folk during the 1940s. Despite the poverty, the narrow-minded biases of the close-knit community and the outcast victims of both, Wildflower always seems to find an accepting, matter-of-fact take on things, especially things she doesn’t fully understand. The child is gracious in her humanity, hysterical in her frank distaste for some of it, and both a beneficiary and a victim of some of the mountain folk’s best tenderness and worst ignorance.
Gabriel’s writing style combines the stark and muted overtones of emotions unarticulated with the sparse but audible undertones of the (near) old South to capture the flavor of the environment and the mindset of its people. She is unfailing in her steadfast adherence to keeping us within the point of view of Wildflower while giving us plenty of insight into the other characters by what they do and don’t say. Gabriel’s choices here were markswoman perfect. And what a lovely tribute to Little Women, and its author, Louisa May Alcott! I daresay Miss Alcott would accept the tribute and complement the author on a job well done!
I did not think the interior and expository utterances of a 13-year girl could hold my attention for an entire book, but in fact, my attention never wavered. I think Gabriel’s success in achieving the full attention of the reader is partially because Wildflower is more adult than most of the adults around her. But she has another dimension that most adults would not ordinarily attribute to a young girl: She is simultaneously innocent and guileless in her trust of people’s innate goodness any yet she possesses a hyper-vigilant awareness of the warning signals that forewarn her of the aberrant hearts of the damaged people she meets. Wildflower rarely ignores here “secret sense” but the one time she does, in her determination to honor the dead, she nearly loses her own life. How Louisa May handles the challenges of being both a survivor and a victim is heroic beyond imagining and tenderly beautiful beyond words that Gabriel, somehow, managed to find and give us in a gesture of authorly benevolence that this reader will forever remember and appreciate.
I really like the thought of my fiction singing. I practice my craft nearly every day (like playing scales). Plus, I attend a writer’s group and take classes on writing, so that any sour notes can be addressed.
Thanks to all of you who have read the book. Also a special thanks to those of you who have written reviews on Amazon, goodreads, Barnes & Noble, ibooks, et al, and others who have invited me to do guest blog posts, etc. YOU EACH have made my day!
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