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Wander Home Paperback – December 12, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"The story itself dwells on a common theme - a daughter in search of a mother's love, a mother who so longs to provide that love but feels inadequate in face of her own search for self and a family who provides them unconditional support. The uniqueness is in the telling. . . . The story inspires one to stretch the imagination . . . . If this were a motion picture, one would be feasting in never-ending sights and sounds, visions that only the imagination can conjure." 4 stars.
About the Author
Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved every few years throughout her childhood and adolescence. After college in California, law school in Massachusetts, and a mercifully short stint in a large San Francisco law firm, she moved to Los Angeles. There she met her husband, who hates L.A. They eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University.
Wyle has been a voracious and compulsive reader as long as she can remember. She majored in English and American Literature major at Stanford University, which suited her, although she has in recent years developed some doubts about whether studying literature is, for most people, a good preparation for enjoying it. She has been reading science fiction for several decades, but also gobbles up character-driven mysteries and historical fiction, with the occasional foray into anything from chick lit to military history.
Wyle's authorial "voice" is thus the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of practicing appellate law. Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.
Wyle and her husband have two essentially-grown and wildly creative daughters, as well as a sweet but neurotic dog.
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Top customer reviews
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On top of the fascinating concept of the afterlife, it is also about a troubled family who is finally able to reconcile. It centers around Eleanor, who abandoned her daughter and left her with her family--her parents and grandmother. Sadly enough, the family died in a car accident before she was able to make her way back home to them. She really did love her family, but she was lost and confused, unable to live a normal life. When she enters the afterlife at a young age, she tries to make things right and to find out why she made the decision she did. When she finally solves that mystery, you are led into almost a whole other story. Her background was more complex and involved than I would have guessed. It was definitely unexpected. I thought I wouldn't like Eleanor because she left her child, and I still don't agree with what she did, but it was somewhat understandable.
This incredibly well-written book will quickly pull you in, and you won't want to put it down. It reads like artful, literary fiction without being dull, boring, or difficult to follow. I loved this book for its originality and for its story about a broken family who has the chance to become whole again--in another life.
First, the problems I had with the book: the first half seems overly long, padded, and slow, and it was hard for me to stay with it, and to sort out all of the characters and keep track of them; and because the characters seemed much the same at first, and very ordinary at that, it was difficult for me to even get interested in them. Getting to the end of the book, I also think the last chapter or two were unnecessary, since it leaves the story to trail off into events of little impact instead of ending with the far greater impact of a secret revealed. It reads as if the author wanted to carry the story further, but then just runs out of ideas on where to take it and leaves it as it is. The intent may have been different, but that was my impression.
It's just my opinion, but I think this tale would have been very powerful as a short story or even a vignette, and with fewer characters. On the plus side, and a very big plus at that, the author is very skillful when it comes to emotional scenes, and that skill shows up very well in the second half of the book; it is the second half of the book that becomes original and unique, and makes reading through the first half worthwhile, worth getting to know the characters so that you can understand the impact of the secret that becomes revealed.
There were a couple of minor formatting glitches with paragraph indentation, and one or two typos, but nothing that would detract from the reading experience. A separation symbol between scenes would also be helpful when a scene ends on one page and a new one begins on the next.
I would assign two stars to the first half of the book, four to the second half, and five for the writing of certain scenes and for the idea itself. For the total package, I would give it four. Had the first half been more imaginative, a little more engaging, it would have easily garnered a five.
I thoroughly enjoyed the light hearted whimsical feel of this book. The stronger undercurrents were always present, but never seemed to take over the story which meant you could get lost in the unlimited possibilities created in Karen's version of the afterlife.
It was interesting, delving into all the relationships. I thought perhaps that it'd get a bit old by the end of the book, I mean, sometimes there's only so much you want to know about a person/character, but surprisingly Karen kept the evolution of the relationships going well, they were interesting, realistic and entertaining.
I liked Cassidy, even though I struggled to fully understand the implications of what happened and how that changed her, but being surrounded by loved ones showed that one can overcome even the harshest of realities and come out of it a better, more grounded person.
The story explored aspects of death that may put some readers offside from the get go. If you don't have strong beliefs about heaven and hell, or the afterlife then this book is for you. If you do have strong beliefs about the afterlife and spirituality and religion, you may still find this book enlightening. With the focus firmly in the positive, this is a truly uplifting read.
Karen made the plot twist and turn and the result was that I could not guess what was going to happen as I was reading. I got glimpses, but never the full picture, and I think that takes a good writer to keep certain things from the reader without losing their interest.
The one thing that bothered me about the book was the constant changes in names of the characters. I fully get that people have nicknames and pet names, but when Cassidy is referred to as Cassidy in one line and then Cassie in the next it gets a little fractious. The same goes for Eleanor and Nory (personally I preferred Nory), and the parents/grandparents. That could be a little confusing for some readers.
I'm not 100% sold on the cover, even though I can see how it ties in with the story, it seems a bit 'stock' to me and given the book was so enjoyable I think it should have a fitting cover.
Thanks for a really enjoyable read Karen.
Most recent customer reviews
This book was a complete surprise and I am happy I continued to read it to the end.Read more
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