Friday, July 24, 2020

South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Webber

Heather Webber has written more than twenty-five novels-most of them are cozy mysteries and light romances. However, she has found her sweet spot in her previous novel Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe, and her newest novel, South of the Buttonwood Tree. I can't say it strongly enough how much I enjoy novels imbued with magical realism. 

This is not a sequel, but a stand alone novel about Blue Bishop and the people she calls family. Set in the small town of Buttonwood, Alabama, Blue is a children's author and illustrator, and has a series of books about a bunny that have made her famous. However, her family name has made her infamous in her hometown. Blue and her sister, Persy are the only two left in the Bishop family; her brothers all died tragically and under unhappy circumstances, her father left the family and died; her mother Twyla willed herself to death after losing her sons and husband. Growing up with little money, the family did what it could to survive-often getting into trouble with the law. Blue, however, stayed on the straight and narrow (except for that one incident in high school). She's been working hard and saving money so she can start the process of adopting a baby. It's what she's wanted for so very long. 

Blue has a gift: listening to the wind, and following it to find lost things. But there remains one thing that is lost that she needs to find before she can move away from the town that has caused her a lot of heartache. So every day she walks the woods to the Buttonwood Tree, searching for that lost thing. This time, she hears a baby crying, and finds a newborn tucked under the tree, with a button from the tree saying "Give the baby to Blue Bishop" tucked in her blanket. 

Everyone knows if you ask the tree a question, it will answer with a wooden button and one sentence of advice.  If you don't follow the tree's advice, you're doomed to unhappiness. 

Blue's dream seems to be coming true-a newborn baby girl left specifically to her. Quickly arranging guardianship, Blue names the baby Flora. While gossip swirls around town and the police investigate the appearance of the baby, Blue's close circle of friends celebrate with her. However, there is Ginny Fulton. She despises Blue and the whole Bishop family, and she will do what she has to in order to take the baby away from Blue. Ginny's daughter, Sarah Grace, is unhappily married, and her husband and her mother both want her to have a baby (the unhappily married part is a secret). She doesn't want one, and knows that Blue will make the best mother for Flora. She has a secret friendship with Blue, and doesn't understand why her mother loathes Blue so much. 

Sarah Grace has a few secrets of her own, too. Big secrets that may damage her father's run for Governor. Sarah Grace has her own business-flipping houses, then renting them to folks who don't have much money. Sarah Grace has the most interesting gift: she can hear the houses talking to her. They tell her all kinds of things-the history, the happiness, the sorrow; they let her know what's wrong with them and who is invited to stay. And she wants the old Bishop house. It is calling to her. 

There are a few other people in Buttonwood who have some special gifts, too. I'll let you discover that. There's also quite a few secrets, and some are doozies! Will Blue get to adopt Flora, or will the town turn against her? Will Sarah Grace find her way out of her unhappy marriage? It seems as though baby Flora has stirred the pot, and set in motion a whole lot of truths that need to be told. There's romance in the air, too for more than one character. It always seems that life's changes all come in a flurry,  and that is definitely the case for Blue and the folks in Buttonwood. 

I absolutely loved this novel, even more than the Blackbird Cafe. Alice Hoffman's earlier novels, along with Sarah Addison Allen's novels are similar to Heather's, and I'm so glad to have found another author who write magical realism that I enjoy so much. Step into Buttonwood, Alabama, and discover the Buttonwood Tree. 

Rating: 5/6 for a novel that had a few surprises, and a lot of warm characters. Believe in the magic. Perfect for a reading session in a hammock. 

Available in hardcover, audio and ebook. 

1 comment :

  1. I loved this book and described it as feeling like a hug :-)