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Wander Home by Karen Wyle should be a bestseller! It is a book about finding your place in the world, even after you’ve passed away. Eleanor, the mother of Cassidy, is a wanderer. She left her daughter in the care of her parents and her grandmother but before she could find her way back home, they died in a car accident.
Soon after Eleanor follows, but she is still not at peace in the afterlife. This is a place where memories can be shared and relived, and places remembered can be visited too. Eleanor must learn what haunts her and wander once more so that she and her family can rest and be together in peace.
About The Book
- Wander Home
- Author: Karen A. Wyle
- Genre: Literary Fiction
- Release Date: November 14, 2013
- Format: Kindle and paperback
- 277 pages
Death is what you make it. . . . Eleanor never wanted to leave the daughter she loved so much. The overpowering urge to wander — to search, without knowing what she sought — drove her away. She left little Cassidy in her family’s loving care. But Cassidy and the others died in an accident before Eleanor could find her way home.Now, they are all reunited, in an afterlife where nothing is truly lost: places once loved may be revisited, memories relived, and even shared. Surely this is a place where they can understand and heal. And yet, the restlessness that shaped Eleanor’s life still haunts her in death. Somehow, she must solve the mystery of her life — or none of them will be at peace.
About The Author
Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee. After college in California, law school in Massachusetts, and a mercifully short stint in a large San Francisco law firm, she moved to Los Angeles, where she met her now-husband, who hates L.A. They eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. She now considers herself a Hoosier.
Wyle’s childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist. While writing her first novel at age 10, she was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten her to the goal at age 9. She finished that novel nonetheless. After a prolonged detour, she returned to writing novels in 2010. Wyle has published her two novels, Twin-Bred and Wander Home, on October 15th (2011 and 2012), her older daughter’s birthday. She is currently editing the sequel to Twin-Bred and has another rough draft awaiting its turn.
Wyle has been a voracious and compulsive reader for decades. Her most useful preparation for writing novels, besides reading them, has been the practice of appellate law — writing large quantities of persuasive prose, on deadline, year after year.
Wyle’s voice is the product of many years of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of law practice. Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.
Q&A With Karen A. Wyle
Is Wander Home the first book you’ve written?
Wander Home is my second novel. The first, Twin-Bred, was science fiction, addressing the question: can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb? I’ve also published a short story about human cloning, “The Baby,” in ebook form.
What themes does Wander Home address?
The book deals with various aspects of family relationships, including forgiveness, communication, and the resolution of unfinished business. And then
there’s the unfinished business that people have with themselves. A related theme is the difficulty of knowing why people make the choices they make, and therefore, the possibility that the judgments we pass on other people will be to some extent unjust. There is also what you might call a background theme pertaining to marriage: the different ways in which a marriage can be happy.
Are the characters in Wander Home based on actual people?
My main character Eleanor is both a good person — a mensch, to use the Yiddish term — and a troubled soul, both of which were true of my late brother,
although the details of their lives and struggles are not particularly similar. One particularly sweet moment between Eleanor and her daughter Cassidy comes from my own life when my younger daughter was a baby. Eleanor’s artistic talent is borrowed from my older daughter. As an old woman, Amanda looks like my maternal grandmother, of whom I have warm memories.
Do you have a favorite among your characters?
It’d be a close competition between Eleanor’s father Jack and Jack’s mother Amanda. Jack is a big strong hunk who’s not afraid of strong and somewhat
dominating women (including his wife Sarah). He’s a thoroughly nice and affectionate fellow, and he’s good with his hands. What’s not to like? Amanda is (at
certain points) a very talented ballet dancer, hailing from a different background than many of the inhabitants of that world. She’s both shrewd and wise, with a talent for accepting people as they are.
What’s your favorite scene in the book?
I’m not good at choosing a favorite anything — but I’m quite fond of the very first scene and of the very last scene. Other contenders include Eleanor’s
introduction to the surprising features of the afterlife, and her reunion with Cassidy (the portion that takes place in Grandma/Amanda’s kitchen.)
Does the afterlife you portray in this book reflect your actual beliefs?
I have no definite faith that an afterlife exists, let alone any beliefs as to what in particular could await us. The afterlife I imagined for Wander Home was designed to help my characters assess and come to terms with the lives they had led. I also wanted it to be appealing in its own right: I created an afterlife that I would love to find at the end of my own journey, hoping that at least some readers would feel the same way. (Some have.)
Please explain in twenty words or less why someone should read this book.
It’s a unique and intriguing journey, with people worth meeting; and it tends to leave readers feeling happy.
Initial Thoughts On Wander Home
It should be noted that while this book is set in the afterlife, the preface states that it is up to the reader what sort of afterlife it is. I think this is important to note as everyone has a different point of view.
For example, I am a nondenominational Christian, and as such, I believe in heaven. Someone else may not believe this or someone else’s version of heaven may differ from mine. This is perfectly acceptable and I want you to know that I do not and will not judge you on what you believe to be the afterlife.
Wander Home is so well written and I was shocked after reading it that I have not heard of it before. Karen Wyle’s writing is smooth and seamless. It is like laying down on a silk pillow after taking the perfect shower from a nice day of playing outside on a summer day with family and friends.
Every time I sat down to read I would feel so happy and calm. This book is truly rejuvenating. But enough of my ranting, let me tell you in my Wander Home book review exactly why this should be a bestseller.
It is Perfect with Classical Music
I don’t listen to it every time I read a book but when I sat down to read this book, I would put on classical music. I enjoy listening to classical music because it is peaceful and I can tune out other noises. Classical music may not be your thing but I like it.
The first time I started reading this book I put my headphones in and started listening to the music simply because if I didn’t I would get distracted by my boyfriend playing video-games with his friends.
It turned out to be perfect for this book though! The music flowed perfectly with the tone. So, I couldn’t help but listen to classical music every time I went to read it.
If you enjoy this type of music or if you’ve never given it a chance, then I suggest you do so with this book. You won’t be disappointed! Such sweet melodies added to this family-oriented novel as if it were meant to be read with heavenly music in the background.
It Renews a Positive Outlook
I try to think optimistically every day. This doesn’t always work because I am human and life does affect me at times. Because of this, people need little reminders to look at the positives life has to offer.
This book serves as one such reminder. As I have stated earlier, it is family-oriented. Eleanor does face the problem of finding herself and what she feels is missing even in the afterlife.
So the author still shows the negative. There are sad moments. However, without sad moments, how could this book be a reminder to look at the positives? It couldn’t.
Karen Wyle gracefully treads heavy waters and manages to show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And she does this while keeping the mood relatively light as well.
Blending Problems With Solutions
I liked that there was a problem in paradise. After all, most people including myself believe that the afterlife is a happy ending. When you pass away, all your problems and woes will disappear right?
Not according to Karen Wyle. Having the main character still have to look for what’s missing was a shock, but a good one. She isn’t the only one that goes through this either.
Her father mentions in the book that many people come with, let’s call it unfinished business. They are unhappy or their life was not what it could have been. The afterlife and everyone in it is there to help. Once again, the positive outlook shines through.
I loved following Eleanor through her journey and watching her parents and grandparents and even her daughter help her through it. They were kind and patient, but you could see their pain too.
The daughter’s pain in particular felt so raw, so real. I loved that the author did not sugar coat anything. Several emotions were explored in this novel from happiness, to desperation, to jealousy, abandonment, and lastly to feeling lost.
Seeking happiness was still apparent in the afterlife. It was just that people could now do so with the aide of having access to all their memories and the memories of others.
How cool is that? I wish we had that now! I think that this book having a reminder of a positive outlook was important because it made this book relaxing amidst the troubles.
Reminds You to Live in the Moment
While writing this Wander Home book review, I realized something. Along with a positive outlook, this book also serves as a reminder that you should live in the moment. I am a strong believer in this.
I would consider myself to be very skilled at living in the moment. This practice of mine began almost three years ago and I do it by being aware of the sounds, visuals, and smells around me. I pay extra attention to all my senses and I dive into every conversation I have.
I am a daydreamer though so I often drift away into my world. Focusing on the past is something I try to avoid. It is there for a reason and I only look back to reflect rather than to sulk or get stuck in what is supposed to be an old way of thinking.
I look to the future as a goal rather than wondering why I’m not there yet. I learned to love the present and continue to work hard every day to do so. This is not an easy task and I know many people wish they could live in the present.
Like I said, I’m almost three years in practicing this, so I won’t pretend it was an easy thing to learn because it wasn’t. In fact, I’m still learning. However, if you want to start practicing living in the moment, I recommend reading this book as a step in the right direction.
Karen Wyle Shows That Memories Are Life Lessons
The afterlife in this book is used to look at past memories and places. How could it possibly be a reminder to live in the moment? Well, because the characters looked at their past (quite literally) to see it for how it was.
It was a way to see how the other person was feeling in the memory, to understand one another, and the event. The past was used to help move on. The memories were also used to relive as if the people were creating new memories within a memory.
This was often done with places that people remembered. I loved that aspect of Wander Home. For example, Eleanor meets someone in Amsterdam and they share each-others memories.
Imagine being able to be somewhere you’ve never been with just a simple thought. Someone create an app for that! Okay, I’m kidding, but wouldn’t that be really cool?
Wander Home Connected On A Personal Level
We as a species take many things for granted, like life. I recently was hit hard with this as my 7-year-old cat, Bean, had to be put down because of a large tumor that stretched from in between her ribs all the way up to her throat. She only had 30% lung capacity.
I put her down on 05/23/2020 and it was one of the most difficult things I have had to do(and I’ve been through quite a bit). Everything happened within two days. The suddenness of it all was devastating.
Nothing compares to losing family. She was my friend and my cuddle buddy. She followed me everywhere and I loved her to pieces.
I pet her until well after she stopped breathing so she wouldn’t feel alone. It was difficult and it still is, but I couldn’t help but think of this book when it happened.
What good timing to read a book about the afterlife when I’ve just lost my little button (one nickname among many for her). I found this helpful to remember the good times, to know that she is okay and that I will be too.
You may have lost someone too or you may not have. If you have, then reading this book is a great way to help cope with it. If you haven’t, then read this as a perspective peace!
What didn’t I like?
Wander Home has so much good in it that I could hardly put it down. However, everything good still has something to critique. There were not a plethora of characters like in the book I reviewed; The Witcher: Blood of Elves (read my book review here!).
Because of this, I expected immense detail on every character within the book. There was a major player in the game that I thought could have been more detailed.
The character was named Mateo and while some of his life was revealed I felt there were more descriptors from Eleanor than anything. Mateo was mostly described from other characters but I wish more meat had been added if that makes sense. Maybe this could have been done if there was more perspective from his side.
By the end of the book I understood Mateo and who he was but I just didn’t feel like I knew him like I knew the other characters. He was more hidden and mysterious which was perfect for when he was initially introduced. However, as the story went on, I wanted to know more and expected more to be revealed.
Okay, so I’ve raved in this book review and explained to you what could be better. When I factor it all together, I can’t help but give it a 5-star review. This book should be a bestseller and I won’t be surprised at all if Karen Wyle ends up becoming a bestselling author.
She has proved to me with her writing skills and ability to sink me into her story that she deserves as much. It takes much to impress me but this book did just that.
The characters seemed like real people and I could feel their emotions. I wish I knew more about Mateo but maybe that could be in another story about Mateo and Jordana(another key character in the story; no spoilers!).
The complexity of the story was written so that I understood it on a simplistic level. With people in the afterlife being able to change their age on a whim and share their memories, I thought the author would get tripped up in the words to explain it all, but she didn’t. Overall, a well-told story like this deserves a 5-star rating.
Anyone who is looking for a peaceful read or a happy book should read this story. If you want to read what should be a bestseller, then get Wander Home!
Let’s Talk About It!
I hope you enjoyed my Wander Home Book Review! Now it’s your turn to tell me your thoughts. Would you read this book? What makes a book a bestseller to you?
Also, as I stated earlier, the book’s preface states that the reader may decide what sort of afterlife this is. So, I was wondering, how do you view the afterlife? I know this can be a touchy subject but I am keeping an open mind. Be kind and courteous but share your thoughts with me! Let me know in the comments below!
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Hi! I am a book blogger primarily. The aim of this blog is to help readers and writers alike. I also write the occasional travel related post. I am a nerd like you with a passion for neuroscience and learning. Hence, my love for books and the authors who write those books!