The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Rachel Monroe has a secret. Well, two related ones, really: she can make wishes come true, and when she was 10, she accidentally wished her brother would get lost. Which he did. Permanently. Now no one remembers he ever existed except for Rachel, and she spent years in therapy because of it. That one careless moment shattered her family, and ever since then, Rachel has been doing her best to hide from her ability. She thinks she has succeeded until the day she accidentally grants the wish of her best friend's daughter to have a unicorn--or a pony with a party hat on its forehead, anyway--and Rachel decides to flee in order to protect those she loves.
Magic isn't so easily evaded, however, and Rachel soon finds herself out of gas in the small town of Nowhere, North Carolina, taken in by an eccentric old woman who can bind secrets by baking them into pies and who is harboring secrets of her own. She meets new friends, gets a job, and is starting to fall in love with the next door neighbor. For the first time in her life, Rachel begins to feel at home, which is a good thing, because the town won't let her leave. Not the townspeople--the Town itself. Since she can't run away again, when word of her wish-granting secret gets out, she has to come to terms with her ability in order to avoid continuing to live a life of fear and guilt.
This is a good choice for fans of Sarah Addison Allen, as it had a similar feel and concepts (semi-sentient fruit trees, anyone?). There were quirky and engaging characters, a charming town, and magic in the air. A delightful read, to be sure.
It would make an excellent book club selection--there were so many times I wished I could discuss this book with someone! For example, does anyone else feel like there should have been more significance to the poisoned plum tree--how it got poisoned and what might have happened when it was ripped out? Or Rachel's family photo--I was surprised Rachel didn't use it as proof both with her parents at the time of the accident as well as with Ashe when the truth about her brother came out.
This book also made me want to eat pie. Lots of pie. Sadly, the ARC I received from Bookbrowse/the publisher in exchange for my honest review didn't include any. *sigh* Ah well.
For readers' advisors: character, story, and setting doorways were all strong. There is a fair amount of swearing, which didn't bother me but might bother some people (things like "damn" and "bat-shit crazy"). Some kissing, touching, and removal of a shirt but no actual sex scenes. No violence.
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