#aww2020 · 2020 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · new release · rural fiction · small town

New Release Book Review: House of Wishes by Jenn J. McLeod

Title: House of Wisheshouse of wishes small

Author: Jenn J. McLeod

Published: October 19th 2019

Publisher: Wild Myrtle Press

Pages: 324

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 5 stars

Three wishes, three mothers, three generations.

A story about the choices we make,
the connections that matter,
the secrets we keep,
and the power of a wish.

Dandelion House, 1974

Two teenage girls—strangers—make a pact to keep a secret.

Calingarry Crossing, 2014

For forty years, Beth and her mum have been everything to each other, but Beth is blind-sided when her mother dies, and her last wish is to have her ashes spread in a small-town cemetery.

On the outskirts of Calingarry Crossing, when Beth comes across a place called Dandelion House Retreat, her first thought is how appealing the name sounds. With her stage career waning, and struggling to see a future without her mum, her marriage, and her child, she hopes it’s a place where she can begin to heal.

After meeting Tom, a local cattleman, Beth is intrigued by his stories of the cursed, century-old river house and its reclusive owner, Gypsy. The more Beth learns, however, the more she questions her mother’s wishes.

When meeting Beth leads Tom to uncover a disturbing connection to the old house, he must decide if the truth will help a grieving daughter or hurt her more.

Should Dandelion House keep its last, long-held secret?

Review:

‘My mother has evidently kept secrets. But we all do, don’t we?’

Answering the call from her readers to return to the site of two of her previous novels, House for all Seasons and Simmering Season, valued Australian storyteller Jenn J. McLeod is back with a new consuming tale. House of Wishes is a story of personal choices, meaningful requests and unforgettable bonds. Traversing two captivating time periods, Jenn J. McLeod’s latest and much anticipated new novel gently reminds the reader of the weight of choices in tying the past and future together.

Travelling back to the year 1974, House of Wishes follows the tumultuous history of Dandelion House, a place where two teenage girls in trouble make a vow that will change both their lives forever. Jumping forward in time to 2014 and the small township of Calingarry Crossing, Beth is a forty something woman grieving the loss of her mother. Her mother’s dying wish to have her ashes spread in an unexpected locale perplexes Beth. It will send Beth on a journey back into the past and along the way she unlocks a mystery surrounding a local abode, Dandelion House. It is here that Beth uncovers some interesting information about her mother, her past and she also uses the time to heal. Beth’s investigations lead her in the pathway of a local farmer, who provides another valuable source of information in laying the ghosts of her mother’s past to rest. In closing the door to her mother’s troubled past, Beth discovers some hard truths, which she finds hard to reconcile in this period of loss, as well as change in her life.

It truly is a blessing to see Jenn J. McLeod make a triumphant return to the publishing world in her new self-published format. McLeod has listened closely to the requests that have come flooding over the years from her readers to produce another Calingarry Crossing and Dandelion House novel. What has resulted from this is the publication of House of Wishes, a loosely linked novel to her previous books.  Jenn J. McLeod is a thoughtful and considerate author, who clearly takes on board the input of her readers. This brand new novel reaches right in and tugs at your heartstrings.

The opportunity to return to Calingarry Crossing, as well as Dandelion House, was definitely a celebratory occasion. I enjoyed being immersed yet again in this truly touching township. What a wonderful reunion it was to be connected yet again to some familiar people and places. I really appreciated the chance to be taken into the welcome arms of Calingarry Crossing. McLeod is no stranger to the small town community style of narrative. This new tale is flecked with plenty of authentic scene stealing descriptions, engulfing the reader in a rich sense of place. Connected to this is the thorough investigation into the history of Dandelion House, which presents as a patchwork of hidden stories and entrenched secrets. I really valued the process of being an actively involved in unlocking these intriguing components of Dandelion House.

When approaching a dual timeline narrative the trick is to ensure that the audience remains firmly rooted in and values each story thread equally. McLeod succeeded in maintaining my full interest in both narrative threads. I was devoted to both the 2014 and 1974 tales. Within each strand, McLeod balances a number of moving themes with a sense of conviction and clemency. McLeod deftly explores sexual relations, recklessness, mistakes, pregnancy, choices, single parenthood, family relations, societal expectations, morality, persecution, rules and reputation. Furthermore, there is a compassionate and insightful glimpse into career, decisions, love, grief, motherhood and marriage. The reader will find it hard pressed not to get caught up in the emotional strains experienced by the characters that populate House of Wishes, there is much to take on.

House of Wishes delicately reveals tale of untold discretions, unbreakable vows, honour, secrets and the unions we make that will ultimately shape our lives for the tides of our existence. If you have previously enjoyed McLeod’s novels, or you have a desire to read authentic small town stories, make House of Wishes your priority.

House of Wishes by Jenn J. Mcleod was published on October 19th 2019 by Wild Myrtle Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of House of Wishes, Jenn J. McLeod, visit here.

*I wish to thank the author, Jenn J. McLeod, for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

House of Wishes is book #2 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge

8 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: House of Wishes by Jenn J. McLeod

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