In an effort to escape the embarrassment of a break-up with her longstanding boyfriend and the loss of her depression-cut job, Alice takes the boxes of book donations she has been collecting on a journey down to a little mining town in Kentucky, where she has offered out help out the librarian there for a couple weeks. Unfortunately, the librarian is not the woman Alice was expecting, and the people do not want her there. But rather like the Alice in Carrol's fantasy novel, she is trapped in this strange Wonderland indefinitely, or at least until her aunt and uncle return from their two-week vacation at a spa. But how's a girl to survive without running water, electricity, cars, and telephones until they come back?
I got a big kick out of this book. I'm not sure it was meant to be as funny as I found it, but I could relate frighteningly well with the heroine, and that, more than anything, was what brought out the humor in the story. Alice believes in the protection and preservation of books, and I can wholeheartedly agree with her protective stance regarding folded page corners, creased spines, and damaged covers. It is a crime. As Alice points out, organization is key - how else can you find the book you're looking for and make sure it isn't lost? A jumbled, unorganized library is a crime. And while I have never read a novel during a funeral, I have been known to get caught up in a book basically everywhere else, including 11th grade geography.
So maybe my life, like hers, is lacking in excitement, but isn't that what books are for? I mean, who wants a body to fall down in front of you spurting blood from a bullet hole in the chest? It is much better to read about such things than to experience them. Except that poor Alice, on her first morning trapped in this bizarre Wonderland, gets to experience it first hand. From then on, she is too busy dealing with the body to read, and suddenly, she is experiencing life.
Alice does start out rather selfish and oblivious to the world around her. As much as I love reading, it isn't my life, and it shouldn't be anyone's life. We need relationships. We are to be in the world but not of the world - and, while books can certainly drag us away from the world, at the same time they are of the world. The author does a fine job balancing a love of books with the importance of living life, not just reading about it.
This book is a delight. While amusing, it does not lack in heart. Written in Alice's first person perspective, we get a clear picture of her personality, but even better, we can see her growth and faith journey every step of the way. With a relaxing but steady pace, it has a whimsical air perfect for a leisurely day of reading.
I stepped outside my normal Regency era genre when I found this book in a thrift store. I am so glad I did!
Immediately different for me was that this book was written in First Person. This was a fun change of pace. It centers around Alice Grace Ripley; a 22-year old with not much going in her life. She has a steady boyfriend and equally steady job at her local library which feeds her CONSUMING passion of books. It takes place in 1936, during the Great Depression, opening in Blue Island, IL.
She fully expects her life will continue down this simple path and she will eventually marry the young man she has been dating for nearly a year. But, things take a drastic change when several circumstances in her life change and she decides to hand deliver books she has been collecting from a book drive, down to Acorn, KY. She has been corresponding with the librarian, Leslie MacDougal, after reading an article about the poor conditions and great lack of access to books. Upon arrival, she finds she was not "expected" and is thrown into the adventure of her life. She is forced into many situations outside of her comfort zone, which help her to grow in so many ways. God has His hand on her in ways she can not understand. A wonderful character we meet is Lillie: a 100-year old former slave who is filled with wisdom and spice! Here is a taste (p.152-3): "I got a feeling the Good Lord has a special job for you today, back in those hills," she said.
The hair on my arm rose. "A job? What kind of job?"
"I don't know, but I'm thinking He wants you to be a blessing to somebody today."
I stared at her. I had no idea what she was talking about.
"Okay now," Lillie said with a grin. "I'm gonna go on out and have a little talk with my horse. Belle is my horse, you know."
"What do you need a horse for? You're a hundred years old."
"I use to ride all through these hills on horseback, delivering babies and tending folks. Not on Belle, though. Somebody give Belle to me a few years back to thank me for saving his life."
"Some thank-you. She's as mean as a snake."
"Mean? No_Mack says she's as sweet as can be. I never did get to ride her, though. Now, if I had me a wagon, I suppose I could hitch her up to it_"
"She hates me."
"Horses don't know how to hate, honey. Only people are that stupid."
There are wonderful relationships that develop in this book and a not-so wonderful relationship; rather a feud between two family clans that has been brewing for 60 years over a lost treasure. Between the feud, and the devastation of the closed coal mines, there are wedges between so many families, and Alice (Allie) is desperately trying to make sense of it and do what she can to soften feelings. Along the way, she meets Maggie Coots who came to Acorn as an outsider (or a flatlander as they are called_people not from the hills). Maggie has lived her for years, but unlike the rest of the town, she is more refined and civilized in the ways of more modern society. She enjoys having Allie stop in for tea and scones - yep, tea and scones! This was wonderful for my Regency era heart! But, maybe that's just me (smile).
I loved reading about how people learned to get by without modern conveniences because they understood the debt they would be in if they suddenly had bills they could not pay.
Allie is so young, and she has a lot to learn about the difference between her plans and God's plans. It was great fun discovering God's plans with her, as she learned and grew and enjoyed some romance along the way.
I give it 5 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to others.
You can read more about this author at: https://www.facebook.com/LynnAustinBooks
Included at the end of the book: Discussion Questions
This copy was purchased by me and I am offering my honest opinions for no compensation.
Lynn Austin is my favorite author. So far, Wonderland Creek is my favorite of hers. I wasn't sure if I was going to like it at first as it is so different from the others. But I could hardly put it down which is hard as I read before bed. This book is written in the first person. Found myself laughing out loud so many times at Alice and Miss Lillie. Very cleverly written. We watched Alice grow from a shallow, spoiled young girl to a capable, loving, caring and godly woman. I find myself thinking about the characters almost a week after finishing the book. I would so love for Lynn to write a sequel so we can read more of Alice and Mack. If you love Lynn Austin, Wonderland Creek is a must read.