Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wonderland Creek

I remember curling up in the corner of the local library when I was knee high to a grasshopper, buried under a pile of books, torn between flying through each book as fast as possible before it’d be time to go, or savouring each page, each image, each word, until they were fully captured...  the latter always won. 

Math class was difficult for the girl with the voracious appetite for the written word – numbers seemed so overrated to this sixth grader when one could use words to paint a picture of life's experiences.

I would eventually fail Math, and it may or may not have had something to do with the fact that during each class, one could always find a book tucked between myself and my desk, with head bent low, pouring over the words shared by author after author, while classmates poured over numbers that made little sense to me.
The failing grade couldn't overshadow the joy at discovering my first favorite author.  Nothing that took place anywhere near Math class could compete with the words she had penned onto the pages that were tucked discreetly in my lap, shielded from view of the ornery teacher whose icy stare I avoided at all cost.  I knew I'd be reading this author's books again when I looked up from the last page of the book I'd been reading only to find myself surrounded by a near empty classroom, with only the teacher and I left staring at each other.  All I could think of was getting my hands on another one of her books...

It was that good.

The simple joys of childhood -- reading in Math class, on the bus, in the evenings, sometimes often through the night, all weekends, all summer...  have given way to the complexity of being a working mother.  Reading time has become even more precious.  The days of reading 5-7 books a week are long past, replaced by precious time in the Word, and perhaps one or two books a month. 

Although my reading time has diminished, my list of favourite authors has grown from one to five.  One of those five is Lynn Austin, whose book Eve’s Daughters earned her the spot in my favourites list.

A few weeks ago, I learned that her new release, Wonderland Creek, was being offered in exchange for blog review.  I had planned on reading it as soon as we returned from Africa, so I glady accepted the offer. 

Have you ever had a time when you trusted an author, a speaker, a preacher, a friend, but when the message begins to unfold, you aren’t too sure where it’s going, or how enjoyable it’s going to be... except you listen closely and continue so that nothing will be missed, simply because you know that this person will deliver?

Wonderland Creek was that kind of experience in the beginning paragraphs as I realized that the main character, Alice, was much like a young, awkward and perhaps obnoxious goat...  she seemed to struggle with depth and maturity, and I wondered if having her as the focus of the book would irritate uncomfortably after the first few chapters...  but I couldn’t resist Lynn Austin’s delightfully humorous portrayal of this young woman’s life even in those first few pages, or the fact that her main flaw was so familiar to me...  she was a bookworm.  A flaw, you say?  Well, not normally, but Allie took this to an extreme when she chose to sit at the back when attending a funeral... so that she could continue to read the novel she could barely put down.


And I thought reading in Math class was bad... 

Caught in this unthinkable lapse of judgement and dumped by her boyfriend whose family runs the funeral home, and shortly thereafter laid off from her job at the local library, Allie is forced to experience real life outside of books when her newfound freedom gives her the opportunity to deliver some books to a library in rural Kentucky. 

To share the misadventures with you now would be to steal the joy of you discovering them for yourself, but let’s just say that it rivals all the adventures that Allie had only experienced through the pages of novels before she was dropped off in the middle-of-nowhere Kentucky.

Although the adventures Allie embarked upon led to unexpected plots and twists, the rude awakening of real life that Allie is continually faced with in Kentucky made for one of the most endearing, hilarious books I’ve read in years.   Over and over again, I found myself giggling out loud as I sympathized with Allie’s frustrations and flaws and found myself also cheering her on as she grew through the unusual trials thrown her way and found her way to experiencing real love, a deeper faith and a fuller life.  Lynn Austin’s brilliantly developed characters were so real that I found myself grateful for the ways they helped Allie grow, and at the same time wishing they were neighbours that I could visit with too.

Leave it to Lynn Austin to entertain so generously while still finding a way to weave life lessons, wisdom and scriptures in such a memorable way that they stay with you long after the last page has been read.

My only disappointment is that it will be many months before Lynn Austin releases a new novel...  but thankfully, hers are worth reading again and again.

Well done once more, Ms. Austin, well done.  

** Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.  Available at your favourite booksellers from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.