My pick of the week is Wish Girl by Nikki Lofton. Beautiful, lyrical, heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting, Wish Girl is Lofton's follow up to Nightingale's Nest. While I appreciated the extraordinary writing and carefully crafted characters in Nightingale's Nest, the darkness of that book was hard for me to absorb. What was unwritten and unsaid was almost as powerful as what was written and said; for me, it was an unsettling read.
When I started Wish Girl I was afraid that I might be in for a similar sort of uncomfortable reading experience. Peter doesn't fit in his family; he is quiet and reflective where his parents and sisters are brash and loud. When the family has to move to the hills of the Texas countryside, everyone is stressed out by the change. Peter, though, takes comfort in the nature around him, reveling in a magical valley, where he finally feels at home. It is in the valley that he meets Annie, the "wish girl." Annie has cancer and she is attending a nearby camp, sponsored by the Make a Wish Foundation.
What could have been a grim, dark story is actually surprisingly filled with light and beauty. That is partly because of the way that Lofton describes the valley - the sunlight, the flora and fauna, the sense of peace that it exudes - but also because Annie is, despite being in a very perilous position health wise, a complete fire cracker. She is joyful, funny, and an amazingly loyal friend. Together she and Peter discover the mysteries and magic in the valley, while also uniting against a couple of local bullies.
I felt a fair amount of trepidation as I neared the end of Wish Girl but, without giving away too much, I'll say that I thought that the resolution was perfect.