Tuesday, October 18, 2011
WONDERLAND CREEK (LYNN AUSTIN)
I was perfectly content with my life – that is, until the pages of my story were ripped out before I had a chance to live happily ever after.
Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But the happily-ever-after life she’s planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real one. To top it off, Alice loses her beloved library job because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression.
Longing to run from small-town gossip, Alice flees to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the tiny coal-mining town of Acorn, a place with no running water, no electricity, and where the librarians ride ornery horses up steep mountain passes to deliver books. When Alice is forced to stay in Acorn far longer than she planned, she discovers that real-life adventure, mystery – and especially romance – may be far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.
Wonderland Creek is a beautiful and engaging story that I will remember for a long time to come. Never before have I been so enamoured with the characters and felt such a kinship to all of them. From the least written about characters to the main characters, I found something within each of them that held me near and dear.
It is 1936 and twenty-two-year-old Alice Grace Ripley has been a librarian at the Blue Island Library in Illinois, Chicago for a year and a half until Mrs. Beasley, the head librarian, makes an unsettling announcement at an early morning meeting. The board of directors have said that library operating costs must be cut due to the “prolonged economic depression” and library hours would be cut and some staff would be let go. The last person hired would be first to leave and that was poor Alice! Now Alice has lost both her beloved job and her boyfriend, Gordon T. Walter, after he was miffed at her for reading a book during a funeral. Alice was quite astounded when Gordon broke up with her right there and then, on the spot, telling her she lived in a world of dreams, not in the real world and off he walked and left her standing there, alone. Alice didn’t mention the break-up to her parents that night at dinner thinking that Gordon just needed time to cool off but she was wrong.
Alice’s mother was a “saintly” woman and her younger sister, Lydia, was referred to as “fragile”. Lydia and her husband Cecil had money and an enormous home even during the depression years but no one knew where their money came from. Alice was convinced that Cecil must be mixed up with one of Chicago’s gangsters! Aunt Lydia and Uncle Cecil were taking a road trip to Kentucky to visit a spa for a few days in March. Since Alice had lost her job at the library, she asked if she could hitch a ride with them so she could deliver in person, the five boxes of books and magazines she’d collected to donate to the poor people in a little place called Acorn, Kentucky, and they could pick her up on their way back for the return trip home. Alice arrives in this little podunk place known as “Acorn” but it wasn’t at all what she was expecting nor was Leslie MacDougall, the librarian! Nothing about this town or its people was what anyone would expect.
Alice ends up having the adventure of her life…no more dream world, Alice is about to face a stripped bare reality so startling and so real that the life lessons she will learn will stay with her the rest of her life, and yours!
For me, Wonderland Creek was a book I couldn’t put down until I was done. You are simply going to fall in love with these characters. Thank you, Lynn Austin, for providing me with the best reading hours I’ve had since your last book!!! You’ve done it again!
***Preview copy courtesy of the author and Bethany House Publishers, with thanks!***