The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry
Publication: May 2nd 2023 by Atria Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Whimsical
Taken from Goodreads: When a woman stumbles across a mysterious children’s book, long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed in this “transporting, heartfelt, and atmospheric” (Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author) novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis.
1939: Fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora evacuate their London home for a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the Aberdeen family in a charming stone cottage, Hazel distracts her young sister with a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own: Whisperwood.
But the unthinkable happens when Flora suddenly vanishes after playing near the banks of the River Thames. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister’s disappearance, carrying the guilt into adulthood.
Twenty years later, Hazel is back in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore for a career at Sotheby’s. With a cherished boyfriend and an upcoming Paris getaway, Hazel’s future seems set. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing a picture book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars. Hazel never told a soul about the storybook world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to Flora’s disappearance? Could it be a sign that her beloved sister is still alive after all these years? Or is something sinister at play?
My Thoughts: Hazel and Flora were part of the Pied Piper Children during WWII. That is just the beginning of the story. Their stories continue with the telling of a make-believe land and a lost sister. Hazel is determined to find her sister, while it seems everyone around her would just like her to go on with her life and accept that Flora is gone.
Whisperwood is an amazing place. It is a place that Hazel takes Flora to disappear from the life of living during a war. It gives them a place to escape to, a place to call their own. Whisperwood is what starts the search for Flora again. When an American author writes a book about Whisperwood it leads Hazel on a journey to find the answers she desperately needs. I found Whisperwood an amazing place, it was a place that let children use their imagination, find a safe place in a dangerous world, and a place where they are safe.
The Secret Book of Flora Lee is my favorite Patti Callahan Henry book thus far. I am excited to recommend it to my friends.
Thank you Atria Book for a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion
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Meet Patti Callahan Henry (taken from her website): Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times, EPCA, Globe and Mail, and USA Today bestselling author of sixteen novels.
She’s also a podcast host, and one of those podcasts explores the background of her novel, Becoming Mrs. Lewis, The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis. Her latest novel, Once Upon a Wardrobe, released last October, explores the stories in C. S. Lewis's life that we might see hidden in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Surviving Savannah, a historical novel exploring the true and lost to time shipwreck of the S. S. Pulaski was released last year.
She is the recipient of The Christy Award “Book of the Year”; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for Becoming Mrs. Lewis.
She is the co-host and co-creator of the popular weekly online Friends and Fiction live web show and podcast. Patti was also a contributor to the monthly life lesson essay column for Parade Magazine. She’s published in numerous anthologies, articles, and short story collections, including an Audible Original about Florence Nightingale, titled Wild Swan narrated by the Tony Award winner, Cynthia Erivo.
A full-time author, mother of three, and grandmother of two, she lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama with her husband, Pat Henry.
Her newest novel, The Secret Book of Flora Lea, is set outside Oxford in the hamlet of Binsey, and will be released on May 2nd, 2023 with Simon & Schuster Atria.
She’s spent countless hours, and yet not nearly enough hours, wondering and reading and talking about C. S. Lewis, Joy Davidman, and their life together.