Book review: Giving readers a sense of place

  • Jun. 8, 2018 10:30 p.m.

Wildwood by Elinor Florence

Fiction

Published: February 24/18.

Dundurn.

Mary Margaret — or “Molly” — Bannister’s life seems to be coming undone at the seams. She has lost her job with an accounting firm in Arizona, and money is running out fast for her and her four-year-old daughter Bridget (who suffers from select mutism). When everything seems hopeless Molly is given a lifeline; she receives a call from her great-aunt’s lawyer informing her that she recently inherited her old, off-the-grid homestead in the backwoods of northern Alberta, Canada.

However there is a catch — in order to gain full ownership, Molly must live on the old homestead for a full year. That’s a full year with no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no internet, no phone, the closest neighbour is eight miles away, it’s a two hour drive to Juniper, Alberta to gather supplies and she is only has $400 to live off each month. Desperate, Molly moves to the Alberta wilderness with her daughter in hopes of gaining full ownership of the land so she can sell it and move back to Arizona. Thankfully the old farmhouse has been watched over by neighbours ever since Molly’s great-aunt went into a nursing home, and is not in horrible shape.

Though she may started out with a plan to just get by the next year and sell the homestead, this new life without any of the modern day conveniences has a profound effect on Molly, despite the challenges she finds with cooking, cleaning, heating the house, and washing their clothes by hand. Through this and reading her great-aunt’s journal she finds strength and wisdom in the pages, and learns a lot about herself as well while realizing she is a stronger person than she ever thought. Fortunately she is not totally alone, out in the wilds neighbours look out for each other rather than ignore each other and Molly soon make friends that entwine with her great-aunt’s past. Her great-aunt had a close friend, Annie, who was a medicine woman from the local Cree community and now Annie’s granddaughter, Winona, is friends with Molly and Bridget.

The description of the settings — the house, the land, the cold, the wild, the forests and animals are astounding and certainly gives the reader a sense of place. The characters just came alive on the pages and there is so much growth in the characters of Molly, Bridget and Winona. Author, Elinor Florence, has done an amazing job on Wildwood. Not to mention it was pretty neat reading a novel that takes place in Alberta.

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