1939: Fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora evacuate their London home for a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the Aberdeen family in a charming stone cottage, Hazel distracts her younger sister with a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their Whisperwood.
But the unthinkable happens when Flora suddenly vanishes after playing near the banks of the River Thames. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister’s disappearance, carrying the guilt into adulthood.
Twenty years later, Hazel is back in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore for a career at Sotheby’s. With a cherished boyfriend and an upcoming Paris getaway, her future seems set. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing a picture book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars . Hazel never told a soul about the storybook world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to her beloved sister’s disappearance? Could it be a sign that Flora is still alive after all these years? Or is something sinister at play?
Inspired by the history of the Pied Piper Children, this novel is a poignant reminder of the magical power of stories to draw us together—and ultimately bring us home.
Paperback, 368 pages
Expected publication May 2, 2023
by Simon & Schuster CA
I try to limit my literary intake of WW2 stories but I could not pass up Patti Callahan Henry’s new book. The cover for The Secret Book of Flora Lea is eye catching along with being one of my top highly anticipated books of 2023.
This is a story of two sisters sent to the country as part of Operation Pied Piper during WW2. What was deemed for safety seemed fine until Flora Lea disappears without a trace. But 20 years later a secret story shared only between Flora Lea and her older sister Hazel has been published by an American author. How can that be? Could her sister still be alive because no one else knows this story of a place called Whisperwood.
What follows is a story of hope but it also brings wounds from the past. The Secret Book of Flora Lea is a somewhat magical story of that special sibling relationship, of grief and war. It’s mysterious with fairy tale vibes, slow paced in that it wasn’t a book I rushed through but took my time. I felt for Hazel, her guilt was real as she struggled to let go of the past and embrace life. Her desire to solve this mystery comes with high stakes and it was great to go along on this journey with Hazel.
Again Patti Callahan Henry has written a thought provoking story that I recommend.
My thanks to Simon and Schuster CA for a print arc in exchange for a honest review. This book releases on May 2nd.