Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Letters From Wishing Rock

Author: Pam Stucky
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: e-book
Source: directly from author
Series: #1 in the Wishing Rock trilogy
Publisher: CreateSpace
First Published: March 2011
First Line: "Text from Ruby to Erin - Sent February 14, 2010. Hey, was just writing to Gran and someone knocked on my door."

Book Description from GoodReadsPam Stucky's charming debut novel is already garnering rave reviews and demands for book two in the Wishing Rock series. This engaging, fun read is written in the format of letters/e-mails amongst characters. It combines the easy readability of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and the sassy, irreverent tone of Bridget Jones' Diary, with the slice-of-life sensibilities of Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street or Ladies' Detective Agency series.

What would happen if everyone in town lived in the same building? Ruby Parker is about to find out. Her fiancĂ© has left her and she needs a fresh start, so she moves to Wishing Rock, Washington, a small town on Dogwinkle Island in the waters near Seattle, where she meets a quirky cast of characters who quickly become family. Letters between the neighbors and their friends chronicle the twists and turns of the characters’ daily lives. There’s Jake, a handsome and charming first-year medical student who catches Ruby’s eye from the start, despite his being over a decade younger. Millie, a Wishing Rock resident for forty years, runs the town’s library, post office, newsletter and grocery store, knows everyone and everything, and shares the history of the area with her playful wit. World traveler and psychic Alexandra bestows insight and wisdom with humor and compassion, and Ruby’s Gran heads to the United Kingdom, heeding her own advice to seize the day. And then there’s Ed; if something fun is going on, the grandson of the town’s founding father is likely at the center of it. Amidst all this action, Ruby manages to find passion and companionship, but will she be able to open her heart to love?

Online dating, a group trip to Scotland, a discussion about dogwinkles, a fateful hoedown, and friendships old and new, all interspersed with recipes from some of the town’s best cooks, make Wishing Rock come alive in this delightful and insightful look at life, love, relationships, and community.

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to author Pam Stucky for providing me with a complimentary copy this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  When the author, Pam Stucky approached me about reading and reviewing her book I was intrigued -- a novel and recipes?  Sounds perfect for me.  But I was also a little nervous because this story is only told via emails and texts between the characters.  In the past it's not a format that I've loved (and yes, I didn't love it in Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society either) because I felt disconnected from the characters but I figured I'd give it a shot.

Once I started to get a feel for the characters in Wishing Rock I was able to get into the storyline and the email format seemed to not matter so much.  What I was left with was a heart-felt, feel good book that gives off a strong sense of community where readers are immersed in the lives of the people of this unique small town.

When I say 'unique' I'm talking about how the town is set up.  This is a town on a small island off the west coast where all of the town inhabitants live in one big building.  I will admit to furrowing my brow as I first read this because I had a hard time imagining such a place.  I still do, actually.  Think of it as a cute, multi-generational version of Melrose Place with everyone all up in each other's business (and beds) minus the cat fights and shocking storylines.  Other reviewers claim that this is a cute version of Northern Exposure.  I've never seen an episode of that show but if you're a fan you may want to pick up this book series.

This is a character-driven novel and the characters are definitely quirky (Ruby's Gran was my favourite - fun and feisty, she was!).  Very quickly their different tones in speaking/writing came through making it easy to distinguish who was speaking.  It's also a book that focuses on three things: food, romance and travel.

I have but two wee criticisms.  First, I think a little too much time was spent describing the setting in Scotland.  I adore travelling and Scotland is almost at the top of my 'next to visit' list but there was so much time spent on describing the landscape and culture that I found it distracted from the general storyline and I will admit to skimming a bit during those sections. 

Secondly, while Letters From Wishing Rock deals with believable, quirky and sometimes humourous characters and situations it always had a light tone and fairly mild drama.  A little grittier issues would have gotten me a lot more invested in their lives and spiced things up a bit.

Pam Stucky has taken an original idea, different format and some quirky characters and tops it off with some 'tried and true' recipes.  Overall, I think this is a good start to a new series.  It has a cute, charming feel to it - if a little too predictable for my tastes.  If you're looking for a light summer read you may want to take a trip to Wishing Rock.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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