Saturday, June 2, 2018

Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine

This novel came into my reading life in a roundabout way.  I had purchased The Confectioner's Tale by the same author, and started reading it.  Not quite 100 pages in, I got restless (my usual MO). I looked to see if she had written anything else, and Where the Wild Cherries Grow popped up, and not only that, my library had it available.  Bingo! And thus began my summer reading with a lovely novel and a new author. 

Sometimes an unexpected book comes along that is a delightful surprise. That's how I feel about this novel, and author Laura Madeleine. It was a refreshing read full of crisp smells, the tang of the ocean, the heat of the sun, and oh! the food!  

Where the Wild Cherries Grow is the story of a young woman who runs away from home to the South of France, and 50 years later, the young legal clerk who is assigned the task of finding out what happened to her. It's 1919, Emeline Vane has suffered too much loss in her short life: two older brothers have died in World War I; her mother, unable to recover from the loss, has died. Emeline, suffering overwhelming grief, is unable to cope and her Uncle Andrew pushes her to sell the family home and send her young brother Timothy off to relatives to live. Emeline is sent to France, on her way to a psychiatric hospital in Switzerland, when she has a brief moment of realization, and jumps off the train. Where does she go, and is she still alive in 1969?

Forward to 1969, and London. Bill Perch, a young solicitor still living with his parents and working for a cheesy law firm, is given the task of confirming that Emeline is dead. Her relatives want to sell the family home to a development company, and since her mother left the home equally to Emeline and Timothy, she must be declared dead for the deal to move forward. Timothy has been ill, unable to communicate with his children, and in the hospital. He is convinced Emeline is still alive, and refuses to declare her dead. 

Bill Perch is a character that I just grew to like more and more. A young man in 1969, he's unsure of himself, awkward, and seems removed from the tumultuous time he lives in.  His transformation to a determined, living by the seat of his pants kind of person is one of the best parts of the novel. I kept cheering him on every time he took a chance and went with what he felt was right. He becomes Emeline's champion against those who would dismiss her. Both Bill and Emeline change from sheltered young people, restricted by family expectations, into who they are both meant to be.  The setting in the small seaside town of Cerebre felt magical and timeless. Bill's experience at Emeline's family home is another magical place, another timeless place that of course would generate change in anyone who was restless and ready for new experiences. 

I loved both Bill and Emeline's stories, and they dovetail together nicely.  Oh, so good!  This novel engages all your senses, and while it had a bit of sadness, I think of it as a bright, happy novel about finding your true self, and in doing so, finding happiness.  Sometimes taking chances can lead to wonderful people, places, and opportunities. 

This is a perfect armchair travel novel, and one you'll want to read while sipping a refreshing drink and nibbling on bread, cheese, and fruit. 

Rating:  5/6 for a delightful historical novel that captured me from the first chapter. Loved everything about it!

Available in hardcover and ebook. 

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