2024 Reading Challenge

2024 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 1 book toward her goal of 285 books.

2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

Book Review: Wander Home by Karen A. Wyle

Oh do I have a treat for you today! Today I am proud to bring you the latest from author Karen A. Wyle – and you’re going to LOVE IT.

I first met Karen almost a year ago, through Book Blogs. She was looking for reviewers for her sci-fi novel Twin-Bred (review available here), I responded with interest, and then after reading the book, responded with even more interest. Karen knows how to tell a great and original story, and I can say with absolute conviction that I will read any- and everything she writes from here on out…

Her latest, Wander Home, is not only a lovely tale about the after-life and after-world, but also a lovely vision of what I hope that life/world looks like. The book came to me at a particularly auspicious time – a wonderful, kind, generous man, one whose children I have babysat and who I’ve also had the privilege to toss back a beer or two with over the years, passed away recently (we miss you Marty S, and always will). Reading a book about untimely death and its aftermath was a little bittersweet, to say the least. But hopefully Karen Wyle knows something the rest of us don’t, because reading her imagining of what happens after we pass made things a little more poignant and left me a little more hopeful.

Let me explain.

To begin my explanation, I’m going to give you the synopsis of the book. First, because it’s easier and more concise than my retelling it, and second because I want to focus this review on my reactions and the writing, rather than on a recitation of the plot. From Karen:

Death is what you make it. . . .

Eleanor never wanted to leave the daughter she loved so much. The overpowering urge to wander — to search, without knowing what she sought — drove her away. She left little Cassidy in her family’s loving care. But Cassidy and the others died in an accident before Eleanor could find her way home.

Cassidy has her grandparents, and her Great-Grandma. And all of them have what may be eternity. Memories can be relived, or shared. The wonders of the world they left behind are only a thought away. The one-way tyranny of aging is no more — a white-haired and stooped great-grandmother one moment can be a laughing young playmate the next. But nothing can ease Cassidy’s longing for her mother; and Eleanor’s parents know better than to hope that Eleanor’s life has been a happy one.

Now, they are all reunited, with the chance to understand and heal. But the restlessness that shaped Eleanor’s life still haunts her in death. Somehow, she must solve the mystery of her life — or none of them will be at peace.

There’s a lot in that summary, so read it again. I’ll wait. ๐Ÿ™‚

Okay, now that you’ve read it twice, think past what it says a little. This is the story of an after-life in which we are whatever age we want to be, surrounded by whatever people we want around us. It is a story about how death, even untimely death, doesn’t have to be the end of everything. It is a story about the consequences of the choices we make, and the difficulty even we can have in understanding – and living with – the reach of those consequences. Wyle’s isn’t the first vision of the afterlife that addresses these concepts (Richard Matheson’s What Dreams May Come springs to mind), but it is one of the loveliest.

Eleanor’s life is tragic and heart-breaking; not only for the things she lost, but for the things she spent so long trying to find. There is a nice twist hidden in the layers of family drama, redemption, and the quest for understanding, and it’s handled deftly and with a unique spin that keeps it from feeling in any respect derivative, even if it’s not a brand-new construct. (Sorry that is so obtuse, but I don’t want to give spoilers!) Wyle has a lovely way with language, weaving characters and setting together into a seamless tapestry of an after-life that I personally hope bears more than a passing resemblance to what’s really out there.

I started the book in the morning, on a sick day. I read through until it was finished, that evening. Even with my cold medicine-addled brain and eyes I could barely keep open, I couldn’t put it down. Don’t miss this one. It’s a beautiful story, well-written and smoothly paced with characters you can’t help but fall in love with (especially Cassidy and Great Grandma Amanda). Thanks for another great novel Karen – I can’t wait for the next one!

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