Title: Wonderland Creek
Author: Lynn Austin
Major Themes: The Great Depression, Horseback Librarians, Mysteries, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Synopsis: After a simple book delivery in Kentucky, Alice Ripley gets involved in a community mystery—not the least of which is, what caused someone to shoot and nearly kill their only librarian in the area?
Recently, I went to the library for the first time in months. After picking up a few children’s books, I wandered over to the fiction section, and was I ever thrilled to find a book by one of my favorite authors! Wonderland Creek is a story I’ve been hoping to read for quite a while, so I checked it out. Mom read it first, but when I finally cleared my currently-reading list enough, I got to enjoy this story. It’s somewhat different from other books by Lynn Austin, in that while it’s all told in first-person, it doesn’t switch points of view. Still, I fell in love with the setting—and got so involved with the mystery that it didn’t take long to finish reading the story!
After her boyfriend dumps her, claiming she spends too much time in fictional worlds, Alice is devastated. Matters soon get even worse when she is laid off her job as a librarian, due to increasing challenges with funding during the Depression. After staying around home for several weeks, her parents are ready for her to live normal life again—and on the spur of the moment, she decides to take a road trip with her aunt and uncle, so she can deliver some books she’s collected to a rural library in Kentucky. After being dropped off in what seems like the middle of nowhere, however, her life quickly seems to spiral out of control. Just one day into her two-week stay, the man who owns the house she’s staying in is shot—and an unresolved feud and mysterious undercurrents soon bode more trouble than she is prepared to take on.
Wonderland Creek was such a fun read. It doesn’t have a whole lot of depth in it, but I felt like the author did a great job capturing (or imagining?) what it might have been like to live in Depression-era Kentucky. I loved the setting, the people, the little things used to describe the countryside, and the realistic way people talked and acted. I also loved the mystery; that was well done! There were actually a couple mysteries going on at once, but by far my most favorite part was the different characters. She did a great job making several well-rounded characters that were quite relatable. I loved Miss Lillie’s wisdom, Mack’s steadfastness, and June Ann’s caring heart even when she was really struggling.
If you’re looking for a good historical fiction, this might be one you would enjoy. It is written in first-person past-tense, which could be a deciding factor for some people. It isn’t that deep, and there are a few opinions I couldn’t quite agree with, but overall I really enjoyed the book and, as always, can’t wait until I can read another one by the author.
One nugget of wisdom I loved from the story was: “[God] wants us to work with Him, honey. Not for Him.” —Miss Lillie (now that’s a thought!)
WARNING: The word “gosh” is used in ch. 4 and 6. The word “blazes” used in ch. 5. The word “blasted” is used in ch. 22. The phrase “holy cow” is used in ch. 7. The phrase “for goodness’ sake” is used in ch. 12. People lie in ch. 8 and 13 (and there is a lie that continues throughout most of the book, too). Swearing is mentioned in ch. 16, 17, 21, 22, 30, and 34.
A man is shot in ch. 4. People are threatened with being shot in ch. 9 and 31. A woman is in labor in ch. 14. In ch. 23, a mention is made of some “men in white hoods” who burned down a former slave’s house and the woman’s husband and child died in the fire. A woman is so fed up with her child in ch. 24 that she confesses to wanting to drown her at times. People’s lives are in danger in ch. 26 and 31. A woman dies in ch. 33 and 35. Suicide is mentioned in ch. 33.
An unmarried man and woman touch (sometimes sensually—one man wanted to be pretty physical, although it never went further than touching and kissing) in ch. 16, 20, 22, 23, 28, 29, and 31. There is kissing (sometimes described) mentioned in ch. 20, 22, 23, 25, 28, 30, 33, and 35. One prevailing opinion that comes out in this story is that it’s okay to date around, and kiss, and whatever—but I would take the view that it would be much better to be cautious and find out whether you and the other person really are on the same track (especially before the Lord) before getting to the physical side of things. In that way, I didn’t appreciate that theme in the book—it especially comes out in a conversation in ch. 35.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults