Alice Grace Ripley is a bookworm (and therefore very easy for me to relate to). She has the perfect job as a librarian in her town of Blue Island, Illinois, and she even has a steady boyfriend, Gordon. All seems to be going beautifully in her little world, even though the rest of the country is in the midst of the Great Depression. Then suddenly Alice's perfect world falls apart. Gordon breaks up with her, after accusing her of living in a dream world of books rather than real life, and she loses her cherished job. At loose ends, Alice makes a spur of the moment decision to personally deliver several boxes of donated books to a small library in the backwoods town of Acorn, Kentucky. Almost from the moment she arrives, she is thrown headlong into a mystery that is crazier than any book she has ever read. Her intended weeklong visit stretches into months, as she is persuaded against her will to stay and care for Miss Lillie (a one hundred year old former slave), helps to solve the mystery of who tried to kill Mack (the librarian), assists the packhorse librarians delivering books to isolated families up in the hills, and even snoops around in a deserted coal mine (in the dark!) and comes face to face with a mountain lion.
This story was truly a delight from start to finish. I absolutely loved Alice, Mack, Miss Lillie, and all the other characters. Alice's aunt, although a very minor character, totally cracked me up. Two other characters, June Ann and Maggie, tugged at my heart with their emotional struggles and tragedies. Ike was just plain fun. I loved how easy it was to picture each one of the characters, not only how they would look, but especially their personalities. A friend recently recommended Lynn Austin to me as one of the best Christian authors she'd ever read, and after reading Wonderland Creek, I agree. It's been a while since I've read a historical Christian novel that was so well written and engaged me so thoroughly. I also appreciated that although there was some romance involved, it was tastefully done. Romance was a fun part of the book, but not the focal point. I really enjoyed watching Alice "grow up" through the book . . . changing from a dreamy, self-centered, somewhat spoiled young girl to a young woman who discovers the strength to do hard things, overcome obstacles, and serve others. By the end of the story, Alice still loves books as much as ever, but she has discovered that books can't compare to the joy and drama of real life.
Wonderland Creek is a book I'll be reading again and again, just for the fun of it. I highly recommend it, and can't wait to read more of Lynn Austin's work!
Disclaimer: I was given a free review copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.