October 23, 2014

Wonderland Creek ~ A Book Review

Wonderland Creek
Book By Lynn Austin
Review by Janelle A. Spiers
October 17, 2014

“If my life were a book, no one would read it. People would say it was too boring, too predictable.  A story told a million times.  But 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 Ripley, Chapter 1

“If I’ve learned anything at all from my time away, it’s that you’ve got to take chances in life.  Jump in with both feet and do things you never dreamed of doing.  We only get one life, and we’ve got to live it to the full.  Most of all, we’ve got to love others to the full.” ~ Alice Ripley, Chapter 35

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

            Wonderland Creek is a novel written by Lynn Austin about a young librarian named Alice Ripley, who adores adventure; in her books, that is.  When Alice’s life is turned upside down, shook about, and then spun into a dangerous plot, Alice must learn to conquer her fears of reality, or die a maid-in-distress.  Austin wove a masterpiece together with the brilliant threads of loyalty, courage, humor, and page-turning drama, creating plot and characters that will never be forgotten.
            Wonderland Creek has several key themes that make up the backbone of the entire story.  Embracing adventure, circumstances, and hardships turn out to be difficult for many of the characters, but the theme of learning to accept a situation fully and unconditionally proves to be stronger than any fearful spirit.  Courage and determination play into that with full force and it is neat to see how Austin developed her characters to face the problems more confidently. Trusting God for help, protection, and strength is also a key theme in Wonderland Creek.
            Alice Grace Ripley lives in the city of Blue Island, Illinois during the Great Depression and is deeply involved in the lives of all her fictitious characters that live in the tall stack of books she has to read.  Her easy life escalates to pandemonium when her boyfriend breaks up with her and the library where she is employed has to make cutbacks.  With a shattered fragment of her day-dreamy world, she travels with her aunt and uncle to Kentucky, to deliver a few boxes of “hand-me-down” books to the local library.  With her suitcase in hand, she arrives planning to stay for two weeks, but the rural town has a few more secrets than she anticipated.  What started as a short vacation quickly turned into much longer stay; Alice found herself flung into a world of attempted murder, moonshine, family feuds, and danger.  When she manages to get home, Alice realizes that the world she knew was so simple in comparison.
            Alice Grace Ripley is a girl enthralled with her books, her job at the library, and her books.  She even loses her boyfriend because he is tired of trying to reunite her with reality.  But Alice’s weak grasp on the real world is completely shattered when she is thrust into a plot as thick as her novels, and with much fear, complaining, and horror, Alice is forced to regain her footing in the world and keep her head above the rising water. 
            Leslie MacDougal is the kind and tall librarian who works at the little library in rural Kentucky.  He has an extreme sense of loyalty, but he allows guilt from his past to haunt him into desperation to make things right.  When he and Alice must work together to succeed and survive, his brave heart, determined spirit, and his playful sarcasm are put to the test.  In the eyes of Alice, Mac is the antagonist, the one in the way of her returning home.
            Lillie is an old, former slave woman who takes care of Mac as much as he takes care of her.  She can be stubborn as a mule at one moment and kind and loving at another.  Her firm faith in God and his care help her to survive the long journey of slavery, and she becomes a second mother figure to Alice, even though the younger woman is very unused to the older woman who is sharp all around her soft heart.
            The writing quality of Wonderland Creek is very pleasing.  It is full of descriptive vocabulary and words that are growing uncommon to use, but the words are also understandable and comprehensible.  Several of the characters have poor grammar due to a lack of formal education but Austin wrote it in such a way that is intelligible and clear. 
            Lynn Austin received a Christy Award for Wonderland Creek when it was published in 2011.  Austin lives in Chicago with her family and continues to write as a full time novelist.  She has published a number of books ranging over a wide variety of subjects and has won eight Christy Awards and holds the title as winning the most Christy Awards.
            Like all of Austin’s work, Wonderland Creek has a decidedly Christian worldview.  Faith, trust, and hope are continuous focal points that the characters seek to retain.  Prayer is a common occurrence and Easter is celebrated at a church. 
            There is not much language to speak of at all in this book.  One of the women mention the word, hell, as a place name, and the word swear comes up a few times as an oath taken to guarantee the truth.  Romantically, this book is very mild.  Nothing obscene or inappropriate ever happens between the characters, but the main character does kiss or let a man kiss her rather frequently.  However, when he suggests that they go into a room alone to kiss more freely she declines.  There is some mention of illegal moonshine stills that the countryside people would die defending.  Also, Mac is given moonshine to ease the pain of a wound, but it is generally looked down upon.
            The crucial turning point of the story is that Mac is shot in the chest by an unknown shooter.  There is description of the wound but it is relatively mild.  A funereal is held at the beginning of the book and another later on, and the death of a character’s husband is a reoccurring topic.  There is also insinuation that the sheriff or government officials staged an accident, but it was in reality a murder.
            The plot, characters, and quality of writing are very thought-through, well orchestrated, and consistent all the way to the end of the book.  The plot is mysterious and adventurous and resolves nicely after the climax, tying up all the loose ends.  The characters are well developed and are very human in nature, and the quality of writing is perfectly fitting to the style, era, and genre of the book.
            Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin is a charming and humorous book, but it is also filled with intrigue and suspense.  The characters will surprise you, the story will make you smile, and the heart-warming conclusion will leave you wanting for more.  Wonderland Creek is an excellent read.
(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Positive! (For excellent topics that are meaningful and applicable to life.)
Plot Line ~ Positive! (The story is planned and executed well.)
Characters ~ Positive! (Very memorable and extremely consistent)
Writing Quality ~ Positive! (For thoroughness and comprehensibility)
Mature Content ~ Positive! (Any mature subject is covered mildly and not graphically.)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For extreme consistency in plot, characters, and quality)

The total score for Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin is 6 out of 6 possible points.

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