Wish You Well by David Baldacci
“Wish you Well” was published in 2001 and is considered by Baldacci to be one of his 5 best books. I’m don’t normally read Baldacci but have listened to a few of his audio books on long drives. His crime procedurals are easy to follow, reasonably well written and about the only books that my husband and I can agree on in the car. A number of people whom I respect, however, have recently recommended this book so I thought it might be a good summer read especially for air travel where it is hard to concentrate so I pulled it out for a short vacation.
I’ll start off by saying that this is a very atypical Baldacci book. He calls it a labor of love to his mother who was brought up in rural Virginia. There is a lawyer in it but that is about all that this novel has in common with the rest of his mystery novels. It is a story set in 1940’s rural Southwest Virginia about two children (Lou and Oz) whose father is killed in an automobile crash, which also incapacitates their mother. They move with their unresponsive mother to their great Aunt Louisa’s farm on a mountain in Virginia. There, they learn the life of struggling Appalachian farmers and how to survive off the land. There is the requisite evil natural gas company and lots of misfortune along the way.
This book was ok and a decent summer read but there are issues. The end is never in doubt from very early in the book. While there are a couple of surprise deaths along the way, the outcome for the main characters is clearly transmitted. The major issue I have with the book is that the 13-year-old Louisa (Lou) was written as an adult. Her thoughts and decisions are those clearly of a much older person. No thirteen-year-old thinks and reasons like that. This has been true of the similarly aged girls in the few other books that I have read by Baldacci so perhaps he ought to steer away from young teenage girls as major characters. Some of the character development is lacking. Lou’s father dies early in the book and although the author tries to give us some background on him, I don’t think that the reader ever understands his motives. In spite of its flaws, the book is a page-turner that won’t disappoint for a summer read.