Saturday, February 1, 2020

Book Review: Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin

It all started with a trip to the library. A very long overdue trip to the library. Like, it's been over a year since I went in there, overdue. Hence, a perusal of all the adult fiction shelves was in order.

It was in the back that I found this particular novel, Wonderland Creek. I had, of course, heard about it through various bloggy friends - in particular Naomi from the blog of the same name. It had been on my TBR for quite some time.

So, I pick it up to read, carefully placing it in the stack that was growing in my arms.

And let's just say, to make the understatement of the year, that I didn't regret it one bit.


This book was really super good. I couldn't even really give a coherent introduction on my GR review. The prose was excellent - it engaged all the senses and it had an old-fashioned eloquence that could be described as "pert wittiness" rather than the snark that seems to be present in most modern novels. The protagonist's arc was rather drastic but super well done. The world-building of 1930s Kentucky was also quite stunning.

But what really impressed me about this novel was it's tastefulness of some really "adult" issues.

The first was post-partum depression. It's a phenomenon that is growing in recognition as mental health is explored more. Using a 1930s scope on it, Austin does a good job of not villifying the character, June Ann. There were times that June Ann had to leave her baby for a time in order to gain control over herself. Many people would see that as irresponsible, but Alice recognizes that it is something beyond that and fights to have other people visit June Ann and help her.

The second was the family feud. It seems a little stereotypical to have such a thing in a hillbilly atmosphere, but it does highlight how something as silly as money can really destroy communities and how important it is to build that community up.

The third was how Alice and Ike's relationship was handled. Many really conservative readers will be a little off-put by how kissy it seems to be, and to be frank, there were some points where I did feel uncomfortable. But, I feel that was the point. I've read a lot about the merits of hands-off courtship, and how copious amounts of physical affection can really skew judgement of a person...and I think this book shows that well. It's really difficult to write a romance without the physical desires and affection (which is why we've made the "mild kissing" exception to our rule), but there is a time and place to show some of the negative connotations of those lustful moments.

Now, to give a more review-like summary.....

What I liked:

- Alice. I wanted to shake her in the beginning because she was such a huge brat, but her character arc was super fantastic. Especially how she learned to wean herself off of technology (BE STILL, MY OLD-FASHIONED HEART).
- MISS LILLIE. She's one of my favorite characters.
- The tasteful manner in which post-partum depression, family feuds, and other complex adult issues were handled, as mentioned above.
- How Ike and Alice's relationship was handled, as mentioned above.
- how the book shows a little known chapter in Depression history (packhorse librarians). While I have issues with the New Deal and other welfare programs, this particular program is pretty unknown and deserves attention. I hadn't even heard of it, and I was a history major!

What I didn't like:

- I felt Mack kinda got the short end when it came to character development, especially in the romance department. I'll try not to be spoilery, but I felt like I was teased a lot when it comes to him. As much as I like slow-burn, this was a little too slow for me.
- Maggie....something about her arc's resolution seemed a little weak. I felt it was too quick too.
- The religious aspect was kinda glossed over, and what religious aspects were there felt....shallow almost. Disorganized too.

RW ratings:

Language: 5 stars.
Abuse: 4 stars. Family troubles, some "unmotherly" behaviors, and a whole lot of deceit going on.
Lust: 4 1/2 stars. A little kissy for my liking, but it was necessary I assure you. I don't normally say that, but that is a big lesson in this book and I absolutely respect the author for putting it in and doing it so tastefully.

In short, I would highly recommend Wonderland Creek to all readers of clean literature as a fun historical fiction novel that probes deep into the intellect and has a broad lesson of being charitable towards our neighbor.

It's been too long since we've heard from our book scouts! What good books have you been digging into lately? Tell me in the comments below! 


  1. Yes, I loved this book! I related to Alice on multiple levels and the story was so fascinating! Great review, Catherine!

  2. Oh, I LOVE this book so much!! We got it out of the Library on CD and it was so awesome! I love Miss Lillie, Mack and Alice!

    1. Ahhh, a CD reading of this would be so cool!! Me too :)