Monday, July 30, 2012

Wonderland Creek

Wonderland Creek book jacket
We librarians love to read novels about other librarians! My latest find is the enjoyable, charming Wonderland Creek.

The story and the characters are what attracted me to this title. It's inspired by the real life experiences of the packhorse librarians, who during the depression were subsidized by President Roosevelt's WPA (Work Projects Administration) to deliver books to schoolhouses and residents of rural Kentucky.

Alice Grace Ripley, a sheltered young librarian from Blue Island, Illinois, is in a pickle. Her long-time beau, an up-and-comer at his funeral home, dumps her. She always has her nose in a book, and just had to finish that last chapter during the rather boring funeral she attended. How could this be considered disrespectful to poor Mr. Watson? He would have understood--he was a reader and regular library patron. Alice's bad luck continues the next day. Even though she's a dedicated employee, she was the last hired. So, when her library is forced to cut hours, budget and staff, Alice is let go.

What to do? Blue Island is a small town and everyone is surely talking about her two misfortunes. Her father, the local minister, tries to enlist her in one of his projects. There are many in their community needing help during the depression, but Alice is appalled. Unfortunate people make her feel uncomfortable. Instead, Alice plans an alternative task. Inspired by a recent Life magazine article, she's collected 5 boxes of books and 3 bags of magazines for a needy library in the backwoods of Kentucky, and has been in correspondence with Leslie the librarian about them. She'll just deliver the books in person and help catalog them as a volunteer. She can continue with her career, read, and escape a while from the gossip and humiliation she's just faced. Then she'll come home.

But Alice's plans don't occur as expected once she's dropped off in Kentucky by her vacationing aunt and uncle. You'll have to read Wonderland Creek to find out what happens. But rest assured, the book is full of quirky & realistic characters, American history, family feuds, suspense, romance, personal growth & belief, and love for libraries & reading. Alice tells her story in first person, and it's fun to hear this tale through her voice.

Wonderland Creek by Illinois author Lynn Austin was published in 2011 by the well-known Christian publishing firm Bethany House. The author has won a number of Christy Awards, which are presented for excellence in Christian fiction. There is a Christian message in this title, but I feel it is integrated very well and naturally into the plot and personalities of the main characters. This is also a good choice for you if you prefer gentle reads. Discussion questions are included at the end, for book groups.

Wonderland Creek and other books by Lynn Austin are available for you to enjoy at The Urbana Free Library. Place a hold online or contact us librarians at Urbana Free Adult Services.  217-367-4405;

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