Book Review: The Wilderwomen
The supernatural underscores relatable, familiar needs
Zadie and Finn's relationship hasn't been the same since their mom, Nora Wilder, disappeared five years ago. But when Finn begins to feel Nora's memories, the sisters know they must team up to find their lost mother.
Ruth Emmie Lang's The Wilderwomen follows the two sisters, who both have a sixth sense — Zadie can see into the future via premonitions and Finn can relive the memories of others — as they set off on a journey to find the mother that mysteriously left them behind. What was originally meant to be a beachside vacation planned by Zadie turns into a retracing of their mother's footsteps, aided by Finn's ability to relive her memories in each place.
As the older of the two, Zadie remembers more about their mom's erratic behavior leading up to her disappearance — how she would lose time, forget where she was, or disappear for hours with no explanation — and still holds onto anger from the five years between her disappearance and the present. But Finn is determined to convince her sister that their mother is not only out there, but that they can find her.
As Finn spends more time in their mother's past via her memories, she begins to lose herself, finding it harder to return to the present. As Zadie begins to notice this, she must figure out how far she is willing to go to find their mother, with the threat of losing both her and Finn for good constantly looming over her decisions.
Lang's use of each girl's supernatural sixth sense in her storytelling allows The Wilderwomen to stand out against a backdrop of similar tales that pepper the contemporary genre. This magical realism is most prominent — and most wonderful — in scenes in which the sisters meet others with powers like them, from a constellation-themed campsite in the middle of the Arizona desert to a small, secluded home in the Pacific Northwest.
While the aspect of a sixth sense and the idea of magical realism may deter some, the story is rooted within reality enough to make the characters relatable: everyone wants to be wanted, and wants someone with which to share everything, good and bad. The Wilderwomen appeals to the universal feeling of longing to belong to a group all our own.
St. Martin's Press // 336 pages // Magical Realism, Contemporary