Set in 1940s Appalachia, The Secret Sense of Wildflower tells the story of Louisa May “Wildflower” McAllister whose life has been shaped around the recent death of her beloved father in a sawmill accident. While her mother hardens in her grief, Wildflower and her three sisters must cope with their loss themselves, as well as with the demands of daily survival. Despite these hardships, Wildflower has a resilience that is forged with humor, a love of the land, and an endless supply of questions to God, who she’s not so sure she believes in anymore. When Johnny Monroe, the town’s teenage ne’er-do-well, sets his sights on Wildflower, she must draw on the strength of her relations, both living and dead, to deal with his threat.
“...astute observations and wonderfully turned phrases, with nary a cliché to be found. She could be an adolescent Scout Finch...A quietly powerful story, at times harrowing but ultimately a joy to read.”
- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
*to read the entire Kirkus review go HERE
where to purchase the book:
Many readers want to know how I get the ideas for my novels and the origin of The Secret Sense of Wildflower is especially intriguing to me - and I hope to your readers. It's a bit of a ghost story.
How I Got the Idea for
The Secret Sense of Wildflower
Eleven years ago, at four in the morning, I awoke with a clear, resounding voice in my head. It was the voice of a girl who began to tell me her story: There are two things I’m afraid of, she said. One is dying young. The other is Johnny Monroe. A day or two before, I had visited the small cemetery located in the southern Appalachian Mountains where many of my family were buried. I spent an afternoon walking among the final resting places of my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as ancestors I had never known. Had I accidentally brought one of them home with me, who needed her story told?
Rest assured, mental illness does not run in my family. But for a fiction writer, to get the “voice” of a character so clearly is really good news. I, however, wanted to go back to sleep. Who wouldn’t, at 4 o’clock in the morning? For a time, I debated whether or not to get up. I ultimately decided that if I didn’t claim this moment, the “voice” might find someone else to write her story.
Needless to say, I turned on the light, picked up a pen and a pad of paper and began to write the story of Louisa May “Wildflower” McAllister. It took days and weeks of listening to her and seeing the scenes of her life play out in my imagination. Then it took years of revising and revisiting the story to polish it and get it ready. Not to mention the tremendous amount of faith I had to generate to keep going all those years—faith in myself as a writer and faith in Wildflower’s story. Now I’ve entered into the next phase of the life of this book and Wildflower’s story, where I give her a kiss on the forehead and release her into the world of readers.
It took eleven years and many revisions to get this book out into the world. I will miss walking around in the beautiful southern Appalachian mountains with these characters. I love the McAllister family and to this day I have compassion for Johnny Monroe. His life may have been different if his mother had lived. Just as Wildflower’s life may have been different if her father were still around. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. We lose people, we grieve, we love, we carry on. To me, the story is ultimately about resilience and it is my hope that everyone who reads the book claims a little bit of that resilience for themselves.
about the author:
over a decade ago, Susan Gabriel gave up her successful psychotherapy practice in Charleston, South Carolina to simplify her life and pursue writing. she writes with passion, humor and insight about Southerners, as well as a wide variety of other ordinary, odd and interesting characters, young and old. her first novel, Seeking Sara Summers, has attracted international attention. she lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina.
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i would like to say thank you to author Susan Gabriel for guest posting today and to you as well for stopping by!