Friday, August 10, 2012

The Secret Sense of Wildflower - Susan Gabriel

Title: The Secret Sense of Wildflower
Author: Susan Gabriel
Source: Author per author request

Goodreads Summary:

  Set in 1940s Appalachia, The Secret Sense of Wildflower tells the story of Louisa May “Wildflower” McAllister whose life has been shaped around the recent death of her beloved father in a sawmill accident. While her mother hardens in her grief, Wildflower and her three sisters must cope with their loss themselves, as well as with the demands of daily survival. Despite these hardships, Wildflower has a resilience that is forged with humor, a love of the land, and an endless supply of questions to God, who she isn't so sure she agrees with. When Johnny Monroe, the town’s teenage ne’er-do-well, sets his sights on Wildflower, she must draw on the strength of her relations, both living and dead, to deal with his threat. 

With prose as lush and colorful as the American South, The Secret Sense of Wildflower is powerful and poignant, brimming with energy and angst, humor and hope. In its ability to create a truly original Southern voice, The Secret Sense of Wildflower establishes Gabriel as a thoughtful and powerful Southern writer.

My thoughts:

I was pretty blown away by how good this book is.  I didn't read it with any expectations, hadn't heard anything about it really, so when I read it, I realized from page one that it is a a well written, powerful book.

As it begins, we learn that Louisa May "Wildflower" and all her sisters have names from the book Little Women.  All use those names except for Louisa May, who prefers Wildflower, as that was the name given to her by her beloved father, now deceased.  Wildflower mourns the loss of her father everyday, and doesn't understand why her mother is always picking on her.  She takes care of the stray cats that live under her house, that her father fed before her, and is kind of like a stray herself, with her mother lost in grief and bothering with Wildflower only when she has a criticism. Her sisters are good and keep an eye on her, and their husbands are protective of Wildflower as well, like true big brothers.

But Wildflower can't be watched 100%; not that she is bad or a troublemaker, but because the mountain is vast and contains its own dangers out of eyesight, such as Johnny Monroe.   Johnny is the teenage thug, and while I felt sorry for him at first, my sympathy faded fast.  And if you ask my friends, that rarely happens- I often feel sorry for the "bad guy", feeling they were shaped that way by circumstance.  Well, Johnny started that way, but Gabriel created a character I can't even feel that sorry for.   An event takes places that shakes up Wildflower's world even more, and the remainder of the book is about how she and her family deal with the aftermath.

Wildflower is strong and resilient, much like her name. She took a lot of licks but still kept on going.  I also would have had the biggest crush on her older sister Jo's husband Daniel, if I were Wildflower. I definitely did while reading the book! He evidenced himself to be the most thoughtful and kind character, and it was easy to see why the family loved him. I really enjoyed this book, although parts of the book were intense emotionally. The message is one of hope, even when you feel sometimes there isn't any.


  1. Thank you for this review. You really put thought into it (unlike some so called reviewers). I have read the book and, like you, found it very powerful.

  2. I like your comments that it's a powerfully written book. This would make me want to read it, for sure.


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