Review: The Secret Book of Flora Lea

Published by Erica on

By Patti Callahan Henry

This book is definite 5-star read for me! It’s the second book I’ve read from Patti Callahan Henry, and – shocker – the first one was a 5 star read too. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, magical storytelling, and unraveling questions about the past, this is a book for you!

Our main character is Hazel, who we meet in the 1960s as she prepares to leave her job at a rare books store. One of her final tasks is to log receipt of an original printing and illustrations of Whisperwood and the River of Stars. Immediately, she is transported back to her childhood during the London bombings and child evacuation. She and her younger sister Flora were sent to the countryside for safety, and Hazel would make up stories about a magical land called Whisperwood to help them escape their harsh reality. One fateful day in the country, Flora disappears and is never found, presumably caught in the turbulent river. So when Hazel sees this book, hope resurges that perhaps her little sister is somehow still alive.

With masterful storytelling, Patti Callahan Henry takes us along Hazel’s quest to uncover the origins of this manuscript and possibly find her younger sister. As readers, we see Hazel’s character unfold as the narration moves between past and present. It’s a poignant journey, revealing how deeply her time in the countryside affected and defined her life afterwards.

Tracing the story of Whisperwood and searching for Flora consume Hazel, and once again her future will be shaped by the events of long ago. I love how skillfully Henry takes us all on this journey, especially how she handles the dénouement. I felt so emotionally invested in the story. She also reminded me of the beauty and magic of storytelling, not just in the stories we read, but also the stories we craft in our own lives.

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