The Secret Sense of Wildflower by Susan Gabriel

The book in one sentence: A young girl finds hope and renewal amidst loss and tragedy.

Set in 1940s Appalachia, The Secret Sense of Wildflower tells the story of Louisa May "Wildflower" McAllister whose life has been shaped around the recent death of her beloved father in a sawmill accident. While her mother hardens in her grief, Wildflower and her three sisters must cope with their loss themselves, as well as with the demands of daily survival. Despite these hardships, Wildflower has a resilience that is forged with humor, a love of the land, and an endless supply of questions to God.

When Johnny Monroe, the town's teenage ne'er-do-well, sets his sights on Wildflower, she must draw on the strength of her relations, both living and dead, to deal with his threat.

With prose as lush and colorful as the American South, The Secret Sense of Wildflower is powerful and poignant, brimming with energy and angst, humor and hope. In its ability to create a truly original Southern voice, The Secret Sense of Wildflower establishes Gabriel as a thoughtful and powerful Southern writer.

My two cents 

I believe in gut feeling. I think most of us do ... though we often tend to ignore that little voice in the back of our minds. This gut feeling or "secret sense" is the gift of our heroine Louisa May, or Wildflower as she is so lovingly called by her father.

Taking place in the beautiful Appalachian mountains during the 1940s, Wildflower's life is one of simplicity, revolving around family and a small community. Reeling from the death of her beloved father in a tragic sawmill accident, she soldiers on in life with her closely-knit family, doted upon by her mother, sisters and brothers-in-law.

A rather simple story of dismissing one's "secret sense," the strength of the book is the voice in which it is told -- that of a loving, pre-pubescent girl. This is her life story and she tells it as any young girl would (to a confidant or diary) -- uncensored, revealing, vulnerable, tender, innocent. She also has a rather vivid imagination and has a rather sly of humour. I really enjoyed getting to know this young girl!

Wildflower's real problem is a rather nasty boy called Johnny Monroe -- a tragic and very unlikeable character -- who coming from misery takes joy in  inflicting misery on others. One day, Johnny Monroe changes Wildflower's life forever.

Wildflower is forced to grow up quickly. Recovering from this devastating event, she finds solace and strength in her loved ones and makes a unpopular decision that is wise beyond her years. Wildflower shows us that one is never too young to show integrity inspite of what hardships and trials life may hurl upon you.

Gabriel's prose is beautiful. Wildflower's voice rings strong and true. Reminiscent of Louisa May's namesake (Louise May Alcott, author of the book Little Women), this heartwarming book is a fresh and true voice to the well-trodden ground of rising up against adversity .

Verdict: This heartwarming book makes a simple life loom large in our imaginations.

First lines: There are two things I am afraid of. One is dying young. The other is Johnny Monroe.

Last Line: [..] the best way I know how.

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I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Susan!

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall