Welcome to the Appalachian Mountains, and to the tiny little town of Morgan’s Gap. Meet Rachel, as a young girl the wildwood called to her. She had to leave but when she needed help as an adult she returned and the wildwood welcomed her back. She is hiding but no one can hide forever. A threat from her past has returned and there is no running away this time. Rachel leans on the wise women of the mountains and learns what wildwood magic truly is. Only together with her new friends and family will Rachel be able to banish the demons of the past and secure her future in Wildwood Magic from Willa Reece.
[Warning: Contained in this book and mentioned in this review are instances of sexual assault and domestic violence. For more information or if you need help visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 800.799.SAFE]
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Redhook for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of Wildwood Magic contains some spoilers!]
A wayward girl finds a home in the wildwoods
Rachel has lived with the Sect all her life. Her mother was a wayward girl who died giving birth to her. Her whole life she’s paid for the sins of her mother. But deep down she knows that she’s meant for something more.
Then one day, during a tent revival, Rachel hears the call of something else. She slips out of the tent and follows the call until she finds an ancient orchard and the old woman who tends it. For the first time, Rachel feels at home. But it’s not to last, the sheriff comes round looking for her and she has to go back to the home for wayward girls.
Time passes and Rachel… well she doesn’t exactly forget the orchard, but she settles into the life the Sect chooses for her. She marries a widowed preacher and acts like the perfect little housewife. But the preacher isn’t quite the man of god he claims to be. Rachel is treated more like a slave than a wife. And he doesn’t spare the rod. Rachel quickly comes to suspect that his first wife didn’t just “have an accident” when she drowned.
When Rachel becomes pregnant she realizes that has to leave. What she couldn’t do for herself she finds she can do for her child. Rachel stages an “accident” of her own, faking her own death before seeking out the orchard that once gave her shelter as a child.
Trouble comes calling in the wildwood
Rachel does her best to hide away at Honeywick. Mary May, a wise woman of wildwood, takes her in without question and even helps her find a home for her daughter (Rachel believes that the only way her daughter will be safe is far away from her in case her husband ever does find her). Mary helps her as best she can and tries to draw her out, but Rachel has been held down so long she can’t break free. Her great moment of rebellion was only possible because she acted for her daughter, not herself.
But no one can hide forever. Trouble is coming and Mary May knows that Rachel is strong enough to face it, she just needs a little push. So one night Mary disappears, leaving behind a couple of old recipe cards on the table with four names scribbled on them. Will it be enough to help her grow into her own before the fire starts?
Wildwood Magic makes a victim into a survivor
Rachel starts off as a victim of abuse. She does everything she can to hide away from the horrors of her past. But the only way to truly end the cycle of abuse is to face your fear, come out of your shell, and start living again. But it’s hard, so very hard to overcome fear and years of learned habits. Mary May knows this, and that’s why she finally gives Rachel the extra push she needs. And boy does Rachel rise to the occasion.
Some of us just grow better in hard dirt. That’s Rachel. When she’s given no choice but to grow and get stronger she finally does. She learns to reach out to her community, rely on friends, take care of herself, and protect others as well.
When she stands up to her husband at the end and refuses to be frightened by him, it’s one of the most uplifting things I’ve ever read. She may have left him five years before, but that moment is when she finally became a survivor instead of a victim and it was beautiful.
Willa Reece creates a community of women
As wonderful as it was to see Rachel come into her own, it was the larger community of wise women that I really loved discovering. So often women are pitted against each other. Instead of working together, we are made to compete for the favor of men. But in the wildwood, the women reign supreme. Not in a “men are garbage” kind of way, but in a “women are powerful” kind of way.
Rachel’s new friends have plenty of respect for men and what men can do. But they also have respect for women and what women can do. They are strong and capable, and not intimidated by other strong capable women. The wise women are used to working together, acknowledging each other’s strengths, and complementing each other’s weaknesses. I wish I could run off to the wildwood and find my own group of wise women. Until then I’ll just keep visiting Rachel and her friends.
Reece offers the complete experience of escaping domestic abuse
Author Willa Reece captured the whole arc of escaping domestic abuse with Rachel’s story. While Rachel was trapped in her abusive relationship she was stuck. She just couldn’t see a way out and she didn’t have the “oomph” to get out of there. But then the situation changed and it wasn’t just about her anymore. That was the catalyst she needed to leave. But because she gave up her daughter that was as far as she could get. Abuse is bad but when it’s all you know freedom can be just as scary.
Once Rachel finally begins to come out of her shell she finds a whole, community just waiting to support her. She finds her place within the community and finds herself along the way. Once she realizes how strong she is, there’s nothing that can stop her. And she’ll never stand for others to be abused like she was.
She finally goes from being a victim to being a survivor, and then to being just a woman, not defined by what anyone else did anymore. I really loved the quiet, hidden strength that Reece gave Rachel. Sure, she learns actual magic that helps her overcome obstacles, but she doesn’t need it. She’s strong enough already!
Wildwood Magic is… magic!
The magic in Wildwood Magic is subtle. It’s the magic of wise women who are in tune with nature, the oldest and truest magic. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. Of course, the true magic (and most powerful) is the community of women who support each other. That was the true takeaway from Willa Reece’s tale. I loved discovering the wildwood, why don’t you come and discover it for yourself?
My Rating: 8/10
Wildwood Magic by Willa Reece is available now! Will you be checking this one out? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.