My favorite heroines are readers. Jo from Little Women. Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice. Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I relate to a gal who reads. I share her passion and admire her for it. It is with great pleasure that I add a new heroine to the long list of female readers I love.
Alice Grace Ripley is often accused of having her nose stuck too deeply into a book. Not only does she work all day as a librarian, she spends most evenings bringing her work home in the form of novels. When she reads during the funeral of a beloved patron, a man whose tastes in books she has long admired, her boyfriend has had enough. He has dealt with her calling him by the name of the hero in her current novel, setting fire to curtains while reading and cooking, and comparing reality to fiction once too often. Alice’s week goes from bad to worse when she not only loses Gordon but her job due to library funding cuts. Untethered and looking at long weeks of do-gooding under the guidance of her minister father, she ponders how to save herself – until she finds a project worthy of her and heads for the hills of Kentucky to deliver books to needy children.
When the car disappears down the road, leaving a lovely young woman with boxes of books on his doorstep, Leslie (Mack) McDougal finds himself completely at a loss. This little corner of Kentucky has few phones, fewer cars, and no hotel. Tensions in the town are high due to feuding families and a mine that closed due to dangerous conditions, so Mack feels he can not turn to his neighbors for help. But what exactly is he to do with this innocent, flighty, helpless individual looking to him for guidance?
Alice is far from impressed with Leslie’s library, comprised of haphazard shelves set up in the living and dining room of his shabby two story house. Anxious to go home, she is less than pleased to realize that she is literally stuck in the tiny town of Acorn till her uncle returns for her in two weeks’ time. She becomes even more frazzled when Leslie is shot just a few days into her visit and she finds herself tending him under the guidance of a woman she is convinced is practicing some benign form of witchcraft. Then she has to start planning a very peculiar funeral, and she really begins to wonder if she has fallen down some kind of hillbilly rabbit hole.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable fish out of water tale told with humour and compassion. We learn about the rough times encountered by people in the 1930s, both the horrors of the great depression and the hard times experienced by the folks in the Kentucky hills. I was charmed by the depiction of their lives and grateful that the author didn’t go with making it a better way to live or a worse way to live, but simply a different way to live.
Alice is a really terrific heroine. She is bright, resourceful, and caring. She’s able to change and endure under hard circumstances. Though she seems a bit self-centered at first, really she is no more selfish than the average person. One thing I really appreciated about her was that she was introspective enough to know when something worked for her and when something didn’t. Just because everyone in the Kentucky hills thought electricity was a waste did not mean Alice bought into their opinions. It was refreshing to see a woman move to a small town and not immediately turn against big cities forever. She saw the advantages to where she was from as much as she saw the good in where she was.
I can’t like a book unless I like the hero, and I liked Mack a lot. He shares Alice’s love of books, is funny and friendly, and great with kids and animals. He also takes care of others and is determined to help the people in the town where he grew up. He’s educated and smart. But he also has a flaw – he can be deceitful and manipulative in the name of righteousness. I struggle with characters who use the kind and decent people around them to further their own ends, even if those ends are for the greater good. I couldn’t help but wonder whether he would turn into a controlling husband.
For most of the book we didn’t get to see a lot of romance; Mack was too busy saving the world to get too involved with the pretty girl who had just entered his life. What moments we get are sweet and highlight how well the two would fit together. But they are juxtaposed with moments of Alice seeing other suitors. It was these two factors that kept the book from being a perfect A.
In spite of that I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys inspirationals and is looking for a light-hearted, warm-hearted read. Alice visiting Wonderland Creek makes for a fun and engaging read.