cover image The Secret Book of Flora Lea

The Secret Book of Flora Lea

Patti Callahan Henry. Atria, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-668-01183-6

In this affecting entry from Henry (Once upon a Wardrobe), a woman stumbles onto a lead in the decades-old cold case of her sister’s disappearance. It’s 1960, and Hazel Linden is astonished when the bookstore she works at is shipped a volume entitled Whisperwood, which depicts a fantasy realm Hazel dreamed up as a teenager and shared only with her younger sister. Twenty years ago, 14-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora were evacuated from London during WWII and took refuge in the idyllic Oxford countryside with Bridie Aberdeen and her teenage son, Harry. There, Hazel told Flora stories about Whisperwood, a make-believe world where the two could seek comfort. Months into their evacuation, Flora disappeared and was presumed drowned in the River Thames. Back in the novel’s present, Hazel, still haunted by her sister’s disappearance, embarks on a faith-fueled, sometimes-reckless quest to discover if her sister might still be alive, one that involves tracking down the American author of the book and visiting Bridie and Harry for the first time since Flora’s disappearance. Though framed by a mystery, Henry’s offering shines most in its exploration of the ways relationships grow and adapt to time and trauma, making for a poignant meditation on the bonds of sisterhood. This captivates. (May)