Ruth Emmie Lang takes readers as well as her main characters Zadie and Finn Wilder on a journey in The Wilderwomen. Their mother, Nora, disappeared five years ago when Zadie was 18 and Finn 12. Why did she leave them? Where is she? Is she even alive?
Why didn’t Zadie see the disappearance coming? After all, she is a psychic and can see into the future. Finn’s ability is to get echoes of other people’s memories that have been left behind. At her graduation party, Finn gets a particularly strong echo that she realizes belongs to Nora. Finn convinces Zadie to use their beach vacation time to unravel the mystery. They plan to use her echoes to retrace Nora’s travels and find her. However, this is easier said than done.
While Zadie and Finn are likeable characters and well developed, they each have flaws that would seem to make them feel realistic. However, it took a while for me to connect with Zadie. She feels alone and abandoned. Finn was placed in foster care and they gradually have become more and more distant as the years passed. She was wrapped up in her new life and turned down invitations to meet with Zadie. Both go through transformations as events unfold, but Zadie has the most dynamic changes.
The story is atmospheric and somewhat sad with some stressful and suspenseful moments. There are several twists and turns that I didn’t expect. I felt like I was on the road trip with the sisters. The rhythm and cadence of the writing was somewhat lyrical and used strong visuals. However, it is written in a meandering fashion that tends to subdue the suspense and mystery. Additionally, there are chapters that go back in time to before Nora’s disappearance. These chapters tend to disrupt the flow.
Magical realism, great dialogue, a mother’s disappearance, an unforgettable journey, and sisters reconnecting, combined to make this novel unique and enjoyable. The characters the girls meet on their journey add another layer to the story. There are heartwarming moments that drew me into the story even more. The ending wraps everything up nicely. However, it has some surprises that readers may not expect. Themes explored include family, sisterhood, guilt, being different, anger, forgiveness, and mending broken relationships.
Overall, this story is fascinating, thought-provoking, and emotional, with great world-building. Despite the lyrical writing style, it held my attention and was very moving.
St. Martin’s Press and Ruth Emmie Lang provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for November 15, 2022.
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