Wise Child – Monica Furlong
Wise Child’s mother abandoned her as a child, and her father is a sailor, forever at sea. Except for her cousin Colman and her grandmother, she’s alone in the world–and her fate takes a sudden turn when her grandmother dies, leaving her without a guardian. Wise Child is surprised and uncertain when Juniper, the healer and supposed witch of their remote Scottish village, offers to take her in. With Juniper, Wise Child begins to get an education–not only in bookish things and healing arts, but also in the ways of a doran, a woman in tune with nature. Wise Child’s strength and loyalties will be tested, however, when her dark sorceress mother reappears, heralding the beginning of the end of peaceful life in Juniper’s house.
This isn’t the first time I’ve read Wise Child, though my recollection of it from childhood is like a memory of a dream–vague but powerful. Reading it now was an extremely nostalgic experience, and I remembered at once how much I loved Juniper as a child, and wished I knew a woman just like her. The gentleness of this book, the simple living and harmony with nature and the subtle underlying feminism of it, just entranced me all over again. Wise Child’s narration is both hilarious and poignant at once–her swiftly changing moods and childish stubbornness, and her slow, strong affection for Juniper all made her seem very real, while still being very separate from myself as a reader. You accomplished something really spectacular here, and I wish more people knew it. Everyone I’ve talked to about this book remembers the striking cover (thanks to the Dillons for that!), and the women my age remember reading it, but only after I tell them what it’s about. It’s one of those under-the-radar books that isn’t long or crazy complex or totally out of the ordinary, and yet it’s one of the best fantasies I’ve read, up there with Abhorsen and Abarat and A Wrinkle in Time. So here’s hoping that my enthusiasm can convince a few more people to read it. Five stars and big ups to you, Monica. Thanks.