From the author of Wildwood Whispers comes a spellbinding novel of magic and self-discovery when a woman escapes her abusive husband and finds shelter in a magical orchard.
Raised in a children’s home run by religious zealots, Rachel never forgot the wildwood orchard she turned to for refuge as a young girl. When she discovers her reverend husband is more violent than she ever imagined, she flees to protect her unborn child. In a society aiming for the moon, yet still held back by men and women constrained by their fear of change, she discovers a forward-thinking community of wise folk with ancient roots hidden within the greater community of Morgan’s Gap.
But when Rachel’s husband appears as a self-proclaimed prophet with a repurposed circus tent and a fanatical coterie to wage war against the secluded town that’s sheltered her, she will have to tap into her true power to protect everyone.
For more from Willa Reece, check out Wildwood Whispers.
I live less than hundred miles from the Appalachian Mountains yet its mythology is so alien. Wildwood Magic tells of the relationship between the wise women of the mountains and the conservative Christian sects that claim much of that territory.
Rachel escaped the sect for less than a day as a child but the wise woman and the orchard she encountered gave her the strength to escape again years later, the abused and pregnant wife of a preacher. Most of the book is told first person past tense from her perspective. She dreams of Siobhan, an Irish immigrant trapped in similar circumstances who planted that very orchard. Siobhan’s chapters, and those of other characters, are third person and their name given at the start of each section.
Each character allied with the wildwood has some kind of craft or activity by which they work magic as well as having an animal companion. A lot of the magic is subtle, generally easy to explain away as coincidence or insight. Rachel embroiders. Others knit, sculpt, carve wood. Rachel’s animal companion is anything but subtle. She lives by an orchard and has a green snake named Eve. I think Wildwood Magic will appeal to ex-Evangelicals but the biblical imagery is pretty obvious.
The story starts out cautiously, with Rachel finally becoming part of the community after hiding away for years. Then the sect comes along and stress levels ratchet up. The first chapter from the preacher’s point of view gave me heartburn from the vitriol expressed. The audiobook switches to a male reader for the few male perspective chapters and this was the first one, so it threw me even further off balance. I’m going to need a cozy book palate cleanser next.
Content warnings: Domestic abuse, Vietnam war PTSD, bees, fire