REVIEW: Wish by Barbara O’Connor
Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.
From award-winning author Barbara O’Connor comes a middle-grade novel about a girl who, with the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, and the dog of her dreams, unexpectedly learns the true meaning of family in the least likely of places.
Dear Ms. O’Connor,
Despite all my vows and protestations that I wasn’t going to be swayed by any more dogs on book covers, it was the dog on the cover that got me here. Or rather the “awww” little girl and her dog. Even before getting to the blurb I knew I had to read this.
Charlie Reese, doesn’t want to be in Colby, NC among squirrel eating hillbillies far away from her (broken) family in Raleigh. But her father Scrappy is in a Correctional facility in Wake, Co, her older sister gets to live with a friend for the remainder of her senior year and their momma spends her days in her bathrobe and won’t get out of bed. So Charlie is now with her momma’s sister Bertha and her husband Gus until momma “gets her feet back on the ground.” Charlie is hurting and angry and so she strikes out at whoever is there.
Every day Charlie makes a wish. It doesn’t matter that it hasn’t come true yet, she still makes it. The number and variety of things Charlie wishes on – from a yellow railroad car, the time of 11:11 on a clock, to three birds sitting on a telephone wire – are impressive. One thing stays the same though – she wants to leave and go home.
Her assigned Backpack Buddy at school is red-haired Howard Odom – a solemn boy with glasses, an up down walk, and a large family who love him and darn near everyone else – including Charlie. Her aunt and uncle don’t bat an eyelash at Charlie’s determination to befriend and keep a stray dog. Charlie’s going to name him Wishbone and knows they have a lot in common both being strays with (she thinks) no home where someone wants you. As the summer goes on though, Charlie’s viewpoint might just undergo a change.
I love the setting of the book – the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. From personal experience, I can say it’s authentic. When I was growing up, I had an aunt and uncle who lived there complete with a cold stream behind their house, canning jars for their big vegetable garden and my aunt taught me how to sew – just as Bertha shows Charlie’s sister how to fix a skirt zipper. My mother used to call driving the winding roads “swinging on a grapevine.”
Charlie is a great character – not because she’s always good or thoughtful or pleasant. She’s often not. But her first person POV stays true as that of an 11 year old whose world has been pulled apart and who feels powerless to fix it despite the fact that it was already broken. All she can do is wish and try to control the anger and fear that is bottle up inside her. Her acting out feels true for someone testing and trying to see if she’s loved and will get a real home for good. Her realization of what she truly wants and her trust in those around her takes time and patience since her home life until now has been unsettled and chaotic. But in the end, she and Wishbone both find a place to call home and people who love them no matter what. A