Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Emma's Review: The Wish by Alex Brown

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Sam Morgan knows he messed up with his wife Chrissie and daughter Holly – he wasn’t there when they needed him most, but now he’ll do anything to put his family back together again. Until then, he's back living in the picture-postcard village of Tindledale.

Jude Darling is coming home for good this time. She's taking over the antique shop in Tindledale, the place where she grew up and she's going to make sure she's there for her friend, Chrissie, and Goddaughter, Holly. They certainly need her right now.

As for Holly, there's only one thing she wants and it's not the sort of thing you can buy in a shop. She might be thirteen years old, but Holly still believes in wishes, and perhaps if she wishes hard enough, this one might come true…

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Many thanks to Harper Collins UK for my copy of The Wish to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

Author Alex Brown has certainly kept her long-term fans waiting for a new book, as it was back in 2016 when The Secret of Orchard Cottage was published. Thankfully that long wait is finally over and what makes it even better is that this book is again set in Tindledale. Tindledale has become one of my favourite fictional settings to read about as Alex has created such a warming, caring environment within the small village. Yes everyone may know everyone else’s business but that’s par for the course when you live in a rural setting. But on the other hand it also has its advantages and good points as all the residents are always there for each other in times of trouble or if anyone is experiencing major problems. They are full of warmth, generosity and compassion. They’re not also above having a laugh and celebrating when there is cause to do so. Many of my favourite characters from previous books do make some small reappearances and this was very welcome as most of them had found a firm place in my heart. It was enjoyable to see who would pop up and when. It was also an ideal way of seeing how their stories had developed since we had last met them.

The Wish follows a new set of characters and is very much character driven and based around the idea of family and its importance for our well being. What makes a family? How can a family cope when things get tough? These tough times may then lead to the separation of the parents therefore causing disruption and the breaking up of the family unit with the child, in this case, Holly, very much left in the middle with confused feelings and an unwillingness to let all she has known slip away so easily. The brief prologue gives us a tantalising hint as to a strand of the overall storyline that does pique the reader’s interest but really it does not have any overall forbearing until very much later on in the story. That said it was a vital plot element but until it made came up again, I had forgotten about but it did make sense and needed to be present to help join the dots so to speak.

Normally, a female character would be the lead in this type of story so it was refreshing to see that most of our attention would focus on Sam Morgan. He has worked away from the village for so long, leaving his wife Chrissie and daughter Holly behind, only returning for brief visits. His job takes up much of his time and to use the phrase all consuming would be very apt. He designs buildings and oversees their construction, most recently he has been in Singapore. But now he has been employed on the Blackwood Farm Estate as it is to be redeveloped. This appears to be the perfect opportunity to make up for all the lost time with his family, to reconnect and get to know them even better.

The only problem is Chrissie has reached boiling point. Too many precious events have been missed; the lack of phone calls or their briefness have also not gone down well. Skype calls do not make up for the actual presence of a husband and a father. I could totally understand Chrissie’s viewpoint. When she married Sam it was very much for better or worse but when someone is constantly absent and you begin to feel second best and pushed to the kerb for work, you have to put yourself and your daughter first. On the other hand should she have given up on Sam so easily? Can a leopard change its spots or has the damage gone too far to be reversed? I did feel sympathy for Sam, I suppose he wanted to earn money to create a solid stable financial future for his family but in his innocence and drive for his job he lost sight that family always comes first.

When he arrives back in Tindledale he is very much clueless and heartbroken. Only now as he is on the cusp of losing his family as divorce looms does Sam begin to realise the impact of focusing solely on his job has had. I did think, initially, Sam came across as selfish and that he wasn’t aware of Chrissie or Holly’s needs? How can a woman be expected to keep the show on the road single handily when they were in a partnership, a marriage and promises were constantly broken? Clearly, Sam had a lot of growing up to do and some big decisions to make. But was it too little too late? Had all the damage been done ?

Combined with this wake up call, daughter Holly is dealing with diabetes. It was interesting to see a condition that many people have being written about and how it can affect all members of the family. At times I felt there was perhaps a little too much detail and maybe unnecessary strain around the topic. It did make sense towards the end as this element of the storyline helped to bring something else to light. I do understand that if a child is sick of course parents will worry and want the best for their child and they will bend over backwards to find solutions or just something that will make life that little bit better but here at times it just felt overbearing but that’s just my own personal opinion. The main focus of the story was Sam trying to get back with Chrissie but Holly too also had her own little plot which refers back to the wish in the title. It was sweet and something which I suppose a young child would want to achieve but I was on edge thinking would it all backfire for her or would things resolve themselves in the way she so desperately hoped they would?

In the blurb, there is mention of another character Jude Darling, who is coming home for good to the village. She has spent several years travelling the world and also has been an interior designer in Los Angeles. Now she is returning to set up her own business Darling Antiques and Interiors. She is best friends with Chrissie who really needs her now. Jude also has a soft spot for Holly and would do anything to help her and make her happy. I wanted to read even more about Jude. I felt her storyline with working for Myles King, an eccentric rock star and owner of the Blackwood estate seemed to come to a conclusion before it even began. I would have loved more exploration to this strand of the overall book. I know Sam and Holly were the main focus but Jude was an interesting character. I could see how helpful, supportive, intuitive and creative she was and wanted to learn even more about her. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy her storyline I just wanted even more.

The Wish was a very enjoyable read, although The Great Christmas Knit Off and The Great Village Show still remain my favourites in the Tindledale series. There were lots of important topics explored in this book and as I have mentioned above some I felt I enjoyed more so than others. This book does deal with multigenerational family life and how the events of the past can very much influence those of the present. That they can have repercussions for people way down the line. Alex Brown has highlighted that with time and effort triumph can perhaps overcome adversity but it is so important to try and find the courage to try again as love, family and happiness are so crucial in one’s life. The saying goes, everyone deserves a second chance but does Sam find these or has he travelled too far down the path never to be able to claw his way back to those he loves the most? To find out do pick up The Wish and enjoy this visit to Tindledale.

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