#BookReview: Wild Life by Alison Brodie

Reviewer: Leah

I received a review copy

Release Date: September 21

wild lifeSummary:

A property developer and a tree-hugger wage war over over ancient woodland.
They’re so busy fighting they don’t pay much attention to Oscar, 9, who is living in the abandoned tree-house.
When they learn that the boy is about to do a disappearing act rather than go into foster care, the two enemies declare a temporary cease-fire as they try to save him.
What they don’t know is:  Oscar has decided they would make brilliant parents.  HIS parents.
Now all he has to do is make them fall in love.

Review:

Nine-year-old Gary has decided that he has had enough of his old life. His mother is in rehab for meth, his aunt Kate does not care what he does as long as she gets her foster care check, and he is getting in trouble everyday with the local coppers (police). He has decided to ditch his old name for a new persona, Oscar, and runs away to the old English countryside.

Faustine is in her twenties, and has left England behind for New York. There she parties every night: drinking, smoking pot, and dancing with strippers. One day she is spotted by a modeling agency at her busboy job, and is offered an audition for a lingerie line. When she is chosen she is awarded a $200,000 contract, along with the rule to live a lifestyle that only promotes the elegance of the fashion line. She decides to quit her partying, drinking, and drug habits immediately.

Colby McPherson is an Australian architect living in Scotland. Once poor and homeless, he is now quite a wealthy man with a booming business. He has recently built a new home for his mother and has a new deal in the works.

What could these people possibly have in common? Beech Wood Properties, a proposed community planning to break ground in the English countryside immediately. Beech Wood Properties is McPherson’s newest project, a plan to create over 200 affordable homes, intent on bringing the impoverished out of the city gutters and into the beautiful countryside. Only one problem, the town hamlet does not want their wood to be destroyed by these additional buildings or their famous Beech Wood Tree cut down. Faustine’s sister, a lawyer, is one of the leaders in the protest and has asked Faustine to fill in for her duties, until she can clear her caseload. Faustine has a personal connection to the tree, and eagerly agrees to not only return to England, but reside in the tree, incognito as to not damage her modeling contract, until the injunction and appeal against McPherson has been passed. When she arrives on the scene, she discovers that the minimalistic tree house built to comfort her is also being occupied by Oscar. While initially unhappy with a child’s presence, Faustine quickly grows to love and care for him.

McPherson is unhappy with the delay in his work as he not only has sunk in his own money, but ardently believes in what he is doing. He and Faustine butt heads over the issue, along with the prejudice that still reigns between the some English and Australians. As McPherson tries to think of more ways to oust Faustine, Faustine wholeheartedly commits to continuing the cause. Surprisingly the two are able to call a truce over an issue they feel is more important than anything they have previously been fighting for. Will they be able to overcome their differences and work out a solution for all? Or is one only playing at being understanding, while in reality creating a plan to completely crush their opponent and succeed?

At first I found the book a little hard to get into, as with so many different characters in the first few chapters, it was difficult to see how they could all create a singular storyline. In the end I found this a fascinating story, that was so compelling I could not put it down in my eagerness to see how it ended.

One aspect that I thoroughly enjoyed of this story was how there was no wrong or right person, but a very deep shade of gray. We understand McPherson wanting to change lives, by bringing improvised people out of the cities and the drug and gang culture that abounds. In a lot of ways he is reminiscent of Jefferson Smith, from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, hoping that bringing people, especially kids, back to the country may save them from going down a dark path. On the other hand, we understand Faustine wanting to protect her home and the beautiful country woods that she played in as a child. Once the building starts, will it really ever end?

The characters were also delightful, as at first they appeared one dimensional: Oscar the city boy growing up in poor circumstances; Faustine the party girl who is irresponsible, and MacPherson the corporate mogul who only cares about profit and the bottom line; but as the story progresses we discover that they are much more complicated and realistic characters.

I thought this novel was a great read.

4.5 stars

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