Reviews for Wish You Well
Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 July 2000
Baldacci, a popular writer of thrillers, now writes a more "literary" novel; the results, however, are mixed. Adolescent Louisa May Cardinal, called Lou, is living with her mother, father, and brother, Oz, outside New York City in 1940. An automobile accident results in her father's death, her mother's withdrawal into a catatonic state, and Lou and her brother's move to rural Virginia to live with their paternal great-grandmother. How different life becomes: Lou and Oz are not only answering to someone new but also leading day-to-day lives utterly unlike what they are used to. Food is heavy but all homemade; they learn to ride a horse; school is in a schoolhouse down the road, a long walk away; and chores involve rising early in the morning and turning brown in the hot sun. But Lou and Oz flourish. Then a crisis arises seemingly out of nowhere. The local coal-and-gas company comes sniffing around their great-grandmother's property, conniving to seize it. Baldacci tells a moving story, and he certainly understands rural Virginia and the people who love living there. Unfortunately, his tale is marred by an overwrought prose style. Nonetheless, if readers can overlook the writing style (and that's a big if), the story might appeal not only to the author's fans but also to readers of coming-of-age fiction. ((Reviewed July 2000)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2000 August #2
A best-selling thriller author turns to down-home melodrama--with mixed results at best.Louisa May Cardinal (Lou) is only 12 when she and her brother Oz survive a car crash that kills their beloved father and leaves their mother Amanda mute and partially paralyzed. Kindly Great-grandmother Louisa insists that all three come back to the Appalachian homestead that has sheltered so many generations of their poor but honest clan--and they do, having nowhere else to go. The children, who grew up in New York, are bewildered by the strangeness of it all, while a family friend and lawyer, Cotton Longfellow, helps out whenever he can. He patiently reads aloud to the barely responsive Amanda and explains country customs to Lou and Oz. But soon the venerable Louisa suffers a devastating stroke--just as a local schemer comes up with a plot to sell her land to the powerful coal company that has ravaged the beauty of the mountains and left its supposed beneficiaries with nothing but black lung disease, crippling debt, and the certainty of early death. The saintly Cotton battles in court on Louisa's behalf, but the jury finds for the coal company since the stricken matriarch can't speak in order to tell her side of the story. All seems lost with Louisa's death, but--with asnap of the fingers--the silent Amanda springs back into full consciousness and the villains are foiled. Political thrillers may be his strength, but Baldacci (Saving Faith, 1999, etc.) here is somewhere between middling and graceless. Drawing on his own rural Virginia heritage, he attempts various styles--backwoods dialect, homespun philosophizing, small-town courtroom theatrics--but his tin ear for dialogue and cloudy eye for metaphor stand in the way of success.Well-meant but not very well-written familysaga. Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal Reviews 2000 September #1
Baldacci (Total Control) turns from political thrillers to historical fiction in this affecting novel whose richly textured setting of southwestern Virginia in the 1940s draws on the reminiscences of his mother and grandmother. After a car accident kills their father and leaves their mother unresponsive, 12-year-old Lou Cardinal and her younger brother, Oz, go to live with their great-grandmother Louisa. Wrestling a living from the mountain farm is hard work, but slowly a love for the mountains seeps into Lou's being. The novel's villains are corporations that plunder the mountains' coal and lumber resources before seeking profits elsewhere. Louisa's refusal to sell her land pits her against her impoverished neighbors as well as a powerful company. Defended by a local lawyer and family friend, her case appears hopeless. The denouement may be too tidy, but readers won't object. Whether Baldacci's fans will enjoy this change of pace remains to be seen, but readers of historical fiction will welcome his debut in the genre. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/00.] Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2000 July #3
HBaldacci is writing what? That waspish question buzzed around publishing circles when Warner announced that the bestselling author of The Simple Truth, Absolute Power and other turbo-thrillers an author generally esteemed more for his plots than for his characters or prose was trying his hand at mainstream fiction, with a mid-century period novel set in the rural South, no less. Shades of John Grisham and A Painted House. But guess what? Clearly inspired by his subject his maternal ancestors, he reveals in a foreword, hail from the mountain area he writes about here with such strength Baldacci triumphs with his best novel yet, an utterly captivating drama centered on the difficult adjustment to rural life faced by two children when their New York City existence shatters in an auto accident. That tragedy, which opens the book with a flourish, sees acclaimed but impecunious riter Jack Cardinal dead, his wife in a coma and their daughter, Lou, 12, and son, Oz, seven, forced to move to the southwestern Virginia farm of their aged great-grandmother, Louisa. Several questions propel the subsequent story with vigor. Will the siblings learn to accept, even to love, their new life? Will their mother regain consciousness? And in a development that takes the narrative into familiar Baldacci territory for a gripping legal showdown will Louisa lose her land to industrial interests? Baldacci exults in high melodrama here, and it doesn't always work: the death of one major character will wring tears from the stoniest eyes, but the reappearance of another, though equally hanky-friendly, is outright manipulative. Even so, what the novel offers above all is bone-deep emotional truth, as its myriad characters each, except for one cartoonish villain, as real as readers' own kin grapple not just with issues of life and death but with the sufferings and joys of daily existence in a setting detailed with finely attuned attention and a warm sense of wonder. This novel has a huge heart and millions of readers are going to love it. Agent, Aaron Priest. 600,000 first printing; 3-city author tour; simultaneous Time Warner Audiobook; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Turkey; world Spanish rights sold. (One-day laydown, Oct. 24) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.