It’s March and I’m participating in the Reading Ireland Month for 2019, this beautiful literary fiction being the second. I will post a complete list of my reads for Reading Ireland on Sunday, March 10. Stay tuned!
I am absolutely delighted today to provide a review for you at my blog stop for Reinventing Hillwilla by Melanie Forde on Sage’s Blog Tours.
Title: Reinventing Hillwilla: A Novel by Melanie Forde
Genre: Literary Fiction, Romance, Animals
Publisher: D Street Books, a division of Mountain Lake Press
Print Length: 339 pages
Publication Date: November 4, 2018
Source: Publisher and Sage’s Book Tours
Title and Cover: Reinventing Hillwilla – Cover depicts farm overseer, Ralph
Life on a llama farm, set in remote “Seneca County,” West Virginia, transitions from contented to chaotic in this final novel in the Hillwilla trilogy — all under the watchful eye of canine guardian Ralph. Five years after we first met northern urban transplant Beatrice Desmond, she is finally adapting to her mountain hollow among the wary “born-heres” and is more open to the blessings in her life. She has developed a rewarding mother-daughter relationship with troubled local teenager Clara Buckhalter and is inching toward marriage with dashing, but complicated entrepreneur Tanner Fordyce. Meanwhile, Clara sets off on a productive new path, one that would have been unthinkable had Beatrice never come into her life. All of that progress is suddenly jeopardized by Clara’s scheming mother Charyce. Ultimately, the upheaval touched off by Charyce’s schemes serves as the catalyst for new beginnings for the Seneca County misfits (even Ralph).
Oh, Mercy! Sucked in immediately in the prologue when you realize you are reading the POV of an English setter, beloved dog, and pack leader of the llamas (Ralph’s Pack) gracing this farm, it’s impossible not to continue reading. Then I was devastated when I realized that Ralph had passed away. NOOO…
Still, protagonist Beatrice Desmond is such a powerful, torn, and emotive character that the pages turns themselves as you become totally lost in the hollow in Seneca County, West Virginia. There is a divide in West Virginia. Between the “born-heres” and the “come-heres.” Beatrice falls in the latter and tends her animals. Clara Buckhalter, at thirteen and a product of a destructive family life, connected however remotely to Beatrice, had come to live with Beatrice temporarily. As these things sometimes evolve, temporary becomes permanent with Beatrice taking full charge of loving mother duties, something Clara had not received from her own mother. Now Clara is at Beatrice’s alma mater on a scholarship. Beatrice is thrilled and proud, but lonely.
In the meantime, Beatrice continues to wrestle with the proposal of marriage from globe-trotting Tanner Fordyce, off on yet another mission while Beatrice works out of her home office telecommuting as a translator and editor. Unfortunately, her old boss is gone and the new one isn’t working out–for Beatrice. Tanner, like Beatrice, had experienced a less than stellar childhood of Irish roots, Beatrice’s family from Boston. Tanner often harkens to the ancient Irish endearment “mo mhuirnin” (my darling) when signing off on his long distance calls.
The author weaves in the artful and knowledgeable handling of the llamas as Beatrice begins to experience strange happenings around the farm. She desperately misses Ralph, who would have alerted her to anyone on her property, but she does take security measures.
Clara’s mother is written as a despot; beyond comprehension how she could treat her daughter as she does, and creates a tension building conflict when Clara is left on the farm alone. (Beatrice has had to leave temporarily.) Clara is young, naive, and sure her own mother could not willfully scheme against her or Beatrice, although it’s difficult to imagine how she could not knowing her mother’s past deeds. The character produces a glut of protracted revulsion and sets the reader on edge, anxious to perceive how the author will produce a satisfactory remedy. In the meantime, it’s easy to get incredibly angry with Clara for not understanding Beatrice is the “real” mother here, protecting her even against her wishes.
The well-paced, well-plotted story creates that bond with characters struggling through discordance with others, the loneliness, catastrophic illness, coming of age, long-distance romance, and the struggles of survival in harsh, bitter winter conditions. The dialogue is natural and believable, the characters fleshed so well, you cheer for the little triumphs and wish Clara were close enough to slap her up long-side the head. She’s eighteen now! Get a grip! And Ralph, even I missed him. Or maybe not–didn’t we see him–once or twice?
A unique story for me! The animals are sweet. Then the plummet and anger, followed by a glimmer of hope. Emotions pulling one way, then the other. And always, always, wondering when or how is she going to get another dog? (You can’t replace a Ralph. Hubby and I also had one–a yellow lab–too smart for us but we loved him.) The author has an intelligent, articulate writing style that pops with little glimmers of Irish humor. The satisfying conclusion closes the trilogy. This is the first I’d read of the trilogy, but had no problem reading as a standalone.
I was given this ebook download by the author through Sage’s Blog Tours for a read and review and absolutely loved the book! It’s an amazing read–totally recommended.
Rosepoint Publishing: Five of Five Stars
The Author: For most of her writing career, Melanie Forde ghosted on international security issues. She published her first novel, Hillwilla, in 2014, followed by On the Hillwilla Road in 2015. Her West Virginia trilogy culminates in Reinventing Hillwilla, 2018. Twenty years in the making, her Irish-American family saga, Decanted Truths, was also released in 2018.
©2019 V Williams