Review: The Wild Way Home
If lovers of middle grade fantasy aren't immediately drawn in by this title and its alluring woodsy cover, then like me, the blurb promising an unforgettable adventure ... set in the Stone Age, might do just the trick.
Charlie Merriam loves life, living on the edge of an ancient forest. Charlie has a clutch of close buddies to share neck-breaking adventures with. Days are filled with wild expeditions, getting filthy (Charlie is a tween afterall) and parental well-meaning remonstrations. Only one thing could enhance this happiness more; the arrival of a new brother or sister.
When baby brother, Dara, is born with a life-threatening abnormality, Charlie's hopes of happiness plunge into a morass of despair. Charlie's parents are consumed with worry. They can barely process their own feelings let alone deal with their first-born's fear, so Charlie bolts, into the familiar sanctuary of the forest.
There, Charlie finds a boy, dressed in deerskins, lying face down in the river, badly injured. Charlie's first reaction is to run for help but the forest is suddenly foreign, altered and ... ancient. Where exactly is Charlie? Everything is different yet the same. And why does this boy act and sound so strange yet oddly familiar?
The Wild Way Home is an intriguing urban fantasy that employs just the right amount of mind play to keep you guessing about Charlie's situation (and gender I might add!). Mystery blends effortlessly with heart-clenching action. And because I was never quite sure if Charlie was a boy or girl, the relationship between Charlie and Harby (the Stone Age boy) quivers with benign expectations and the sort of friendship forged out of moments of great pressure, like diamonds.
The story line intrigues as it weaves effortlessly through the now and then, told in first person by Charlie, to maintain tantilising speculation yet solid and spontaneous enough to draw us into all of Charlie's anxieties and terrors. Through Harby, Charlie learns what true courage really looks and feels like, and what make safe truly stands for. Through their feats of survival we learn that dealing with fear and anxiety is not about running from it but rather progressing toward it and ultimately through it.
A heart-caressing ending wraps up this mysterious foray back in time nicely leaving you feeling, like Charlie, that you have truly been on an forgettable adventure...and back.
The Wild Way Home is an unique, deeply considered time-slip story that will keep readers aged 9 and above enthralled and entertained well after Charlie returns home for a fresh T-Shirt.
Title: The Wild Way Home
Author: Sophie Kirtley
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, $14.99
Publication Date: August 2020
For ages: 9 – 14
Type: Middle Grade Fiction