I’ve heard such good things about Ruth Emmie Lang, and I recently picked up both Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance and The Wilderwomen. I love magical realism, found families, and broken familial relationships. I was certain I would love The Wilderwomen (St. Martin’s Press 2022). And I tried. Oh, how I tried. But I wanted to love it more than I actually did; it was one of my bigger disappointments of 2022.
The premise of the novel held such promise: five years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared without a trace, leaving her two daughters behind. Zadie was 18 when her mother disappeared, but Finn was a tweenager and put in foster care with a loving family. When Finn graduates, the sisters are supposed to go on a beach trip together. But Finn has other plans – Finn wants to look for their mother. Finn can hear echoes, memories of people who came before. Zadie is psychic but hasn’t practiced the ability in years. Finn thinks with their combined gifts, they can find their mother. Zadie, full of hurt, anger and guilt, isn’t sure she wants to find their mother, but she agrees because she loves Finn. Following the scantest breadcrumbs of clues in the memories Finn picks up, they set out. They meet other people like them as they follow their mother’s journey that had led her away from them.
The novel lacks a warmth that connects the reader to Zadie, Finn, and Nora. The characters were either unlikeable or not fully developed. (Why was Joel written that way?!?!) The characters at Constellation Camp as well as Myron’s family had such potential, but seemed sketches not fully rendered or colored in. The relationship between Finn and Zadie, as well as the shift in Zadie wanting to find her mom, needed more tenderness and fleshing out. The magic needed more spark. And speaking of things not fully realized, what sort of ending was that? It squawked with disappointment.
Based on reviews, I’m in the minority here. Maybe my expectations were simply too high, but this was an entirely forgettable story that was a chore to finish. If I was a person who DNF’d, I would have. I still intend to read Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance because I’ve heard it is much better. Perhaps The Wilderwomen simply suffered from a deadline and that sophomore curse.
Should you read this book? Eh. If you do, I hope you enjoy it more than I did.