All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell

on June 6, 2019

Wildflower Ridge
Maya Linnell
Allen & Unwin
2019, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Penny McIntyre loves her life as an ambitious city professional, with a marketing team at her fingertips and a promotion just within reach. So when she’s floored by a mystery illness, and ordered back to the family farm for three months’ rest and recuperation, she is horrified to find her perfect life imploding.

Within days, Penny has to leave her much-loved job, her live-in boyfriend, and her beloved city apartment… to return to the small country town in which she grew up. Back to her dad and three sisters, one of whom has never forgiven her for abandoning her family. And to her ex-boyfriend, Tim Patterson, who was the biggest reason she ran in the first place.

When Penny’s father is injured in a farming accident and Tim campaigns to buy the property, she must choose between the city life she loves and the farming dream she buried long ago.

Wildflower Ridge is rural fiction straight from the heart.

Sometimes when you read a book, you know what to expect going in and the book delivers exactly that. Other times though, you think you know what you’re getting but the book ends up surprising you. I think that for me, Wildflower Ridge was both. I in some ways, got exactly what I thought I would, going in. But there was also a part of the book that was definitely unexpected and was really surprising to me…..but definitely in a good way.

Penny left her family’s farm in rural Victoria behind many years ago, moving to the city where she works in marketing. She is very dedicated to her job, working long hours and she’s gunning for a big promotion. She has a boyfriend who like her, is an upwardly mobile professional and she is very satisfied with the direction of her life. Until a sudden illness knocks her flat and she’s packed off to the country to get better, leaving her job and the city behind. Penny is incredibly resentful of being forced to leave and go back to the family farm and it’s clear she doesn’t want to really be there. Although she does return to see her family, her visits seem sporadic and one of her sisters wastes no time in attacking most of her life goals and the fact that she’s left the farm behind. And there’s also the complication of Tim Patterson, Penny’s high-school boyfriend who now works for Penny’s father on the family farm in a managerial capacity.

Returning to the family farm from a city career is a common trope in rural fiction but I appreciated the depth Maya Linnell gave Penny’s journey here both with her illness and also her motivation many years ago in seeking her new life in Melbourne. I feel as though disdain for those that leave is also a common theme at times but once again, the author breathes new life into this as well. Families are tricky and sometimes those dynamics can be difficult to get right. Penny gets along relatively well with two of her sisters but clashes badly with a third, the two bickering incessantly and sniping at each other. At one stage I remember I started to get really frustrated with the direction of their arguments…..I just wanted to know what the heck Penny’s sister Lara’s problem was. That frustration I was feeling made me really identify with Penny, who is experiencing a lot of frustration of her own towards Lara. After their father is injured in a farming incident, Lara really pushes for something that makes Penny reassess her priorities and what she wants out of life, rethinking those events from her teen years that led to her making the choices she did. Lara’s a prickly character, quite unlikable at first in her relentless jibes at Penny for leaving and her life in the city. But once the reader discovers precisely what Lara’s problem is, you see her in an entirely new light. Her reasoning, her motivation, her desperation all suddenly makes sense and you can see what drove her and why she was just so…..closed off. And remote. Her character was really well done and the depths the book went to in exploring her situation were very thoughtfully done.

This is a very strong debut novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the setting – an area in Victoria that I’m a little familiar with due to regular trips out that way into western Victoria and I liked the farm stuff. There’s situations where Penny really struggles and it felt incredibly realistic. The weather gets in the way too, of course. The strength is in the relationships between family – Penny and her sisters, Penny and her dad and the frustration that results from his accident and Penny taking on a lot of responsibility and commitment as she’s recovering from her illness. I also really liked Tim and the relationships he has with his family – the Nanna who basically raised him and also his brother, who has Down Syndrome. He also has some very complex feelings toward his absent parents as well and a determination to be seen as a separate entity to his father, not a younger version of the same man. Country minds can link families together (funnily enough, a bunch of people from my husband’s hometown generally refer to him as ‘Sam’, which is his Dad’s name. I’ve never known why they do it and neither does my husband other than it’s something they do there) but Tim has his own dreams and wants to achieve them on his own merits. I loved the well-roundedness of the story and all its characters and the believability of their interactions. I’m definitely looking forward to Maya Linnell’s next book!

8/10

Book #87 of 2019

Wildflower Ridge is book #39 for The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019


One response to “Review: Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell

  1. […] Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell. My review. […]

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