WISH YOU WELL has been on the bottom of my reading list since it's author, David Baldacci, left his successful suspense genre to write it. I know the man doesn't know me, but I felt personally let down. However, since I ran out of things to read, I forced myself to check it out.
I loved this book.
WISH YOU WELL tells the story of Lou, a 12-year old girl, and her 7-year old brother Oz, who find themselves transplanted from gritty, busy New York City to the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia in the early 1940's. These children are suddenly thrust into this unfamiliar world after a car accident kills their father, a somewhat famous writer, and leaves their mother in a weird, vegetative state. Lou and Oz have no other option but to go to their great-grandmother in the mountains, taking along their mother, Amanda. The children's great-grandmother Louisa takes the three of them in and sends the personal nurse on her way, to the great relief of the children. Then she sets out to teach the children responsibility. Louisa, who is Lou's namesake, is fond of saying that “learning is best learned by doing, not showing.”
Immediately I fell in love with the main character, twelve-year old Lou. She has enormous courage and a heightened sense of her self. She is thrilled to be given her father's room as she has always adored him. I was surprised to discover Lou’s vulnerability lies in wishing for greater love from her mother. And since that chance at love may now be gone forever, Lou is desperate to gain it. She also feels that foolishly hoping for Amanda's recovery will only make the inevitable loss more unbearable, and tries to maintain a distance from her mother. Grandmother Louisa, always wise, has Lou get to know her mother through letters that Amanda wrote to Louisa over the years. The scenes in which Lou reads these letters are very poignant. Lou’s feelings become even more complicated when a small-town attorney friend begins to visit and read to Amanda and seems to be falling in love with her, even though she doesn’t respond.
Oz, the little boy, is somewhat fragile in the beginning of the book. Oz has always been treated gently by those around him, and he has been over-protected by his mother. Lou is his self-appointed caretaker, more so now since their parents cannot care for him. He is a delight to watch as he questions and learns his way about the mountain and surprises Lou, as well as the reader, with his strength and courage.
The two children befriend a mysterious mountain boy that seems to have done everything there is to do, and as a result know everything there is to know. His mystifying past is something Lou is determined to uncover, and when she does, she grows another notch toward mature understanding of our fellow man.
Grandmother Louisa is a fascinating character that has thrived, living on the mountain all of her life. She lives by the belief that everything she needs is right there on the mountain, and she has a firm, unshakable conviction that God will provide everything that is needed. Her gentle loving of the children and her selfless care of Amanda are just two traits that make her a formidable woman worth knowing.
Like all good Baldacci novels, the suspense in WISH YOU WELL kept me reading and made me want to be in the story, helping Louisa, the children, Amanda, and the rest overcome the nasty obstacles Baldacci throws in their way. Can Louisa’s land be saved? Can an abusive neighbor’s wife give birth without the help of a midwife? Can the characters overcome the death of two others, one by stroke, and the other by accident? Will Amanda wake up? To name just a few. Whew!
WISH YOU WELL teaches a valuable lesson: life is hard, but it can be lived well. And when lived without all the comforts of the world, builds character seldom found. Well done.