Deep in the Pacific Northwest lies the Olympic National Forest—nearly one million acres of impenetrable darkness and impossible beauty. Even in this modern age, much of it remains undiscovered and uncharted. From the heart of this old forest, a six-year-old girl appears. Speechless and alone, she can give no clue as to her identity, no hint of her past…
Until recently, Dr. Julia Cates was one of the preeminent child psychiatrists in the country, but a scandal shattered her confidence, ruined her career, and made her a media target. When she gets a desperate call from her estranged sister, Ellie, a police chief in their small western Washington hometown, she jumps at the chance to escape.
In Rain Valley, nothing much ever happens—until a girl emerges from the deep woods and walks into town. She is a victim unlike any Julia has ever seen: a child locked in a world of unimaginable fear and isolation.
When word spreads of the “wild child” and the infamous doctor who is treating her, the media descend on Julia and once again her competence is challenged. State and federal authorities want to lock the girl away in an institution until an identification can be made.
But to Julia, who has come to doubt her own ability, nothing is more important than saving the girl she now calls Alice. To heal this child, Julia will have to understand that she cannot work alone and must look to others—the people in the town she left long ago, the sister she barely knows, and Dr. Max Cerrasin, a handsome, private man with secrets of his own.
Then a shocking revelation forces Julia to risk everything to discover the truth about Alice. The ordeal that follows will test the limits of Julia’s faith, forgiveness, and love, as she struggles to ascertain where Alice ultimately belongs.
In her most ambitious novel to date, Kristin Hannah delivers an incandescent story about the resilience of the human spirit, the triumph of hope, and the mysterious places in the heart where love lies waiting.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that made me cry. I think that’s a good place to start my review, right? I should also start this review by mentioning that I listened to this in audiobook format. This is only the second audiobook I’ve enjoyed so far, but I’m getting used to it. I was immediately intrigued at the beginning of the book, when publicly disgraced psychiatrist, Julia, was introduced. The book begins mid-trial, as Julia is being sued, but is also awash in guilt and self-doubt wondering if she missed crucial signs that her patient was homicidal and suicidal. Suddenly, new characters were introduced, and for a few minutes, I had a hard time keeping everyone straight. I wondered if I was going to regret “reading” this in audiobook format instead of in regular book format, but my fears were rapidly put to rest and I quickly settled down to really enjoy this book. Not just enjoy it – but become consumed by it.
We’re introduced to “girl,” who is lost in the woods, and doesn’t seem to have a solid sense of self. She doesn’t really know who she is or where she is. Her world is fear and confusion. She is ruled by survival.
We’re also introduced to Ellie, who is the police chief of Rain Valley. She also happens to be Julia’s sister. We find out right away that she has a strained relationship with Julia. In fact Julia’s relationship with the town of Rain Valley is rather stained and distant, and that Julia doesn’t really have any close relationships with anyone. We also quickly meet several smalltown characters in the police station (which is why I got a bit confused) who feel like friends as the story goes on.
When a “wild” young girl emerges from the forest with a wolf cub clutched in her arms, Ellie and the town doctor must try to identify her. It soon becomes evident they don’t have the resources to handle this sort of task. The child is unable to speak, displays signs of severe trauma and abuse, and lashes out violently when approached. Ellie contacts the only person she knows who has experience dealing with severely traumatized children – her sister, Julia.
With nowhere else to go and no other prospects for employment, Julia comes to Rain Valley, not knowing what to expect. Ellie hasn’t explained the circumstances surrounding her summons – only that she needs her sister’s help. She has never treated a patient like “Alice” (the name they eventually give the wild “wolf” girl), but she knows this girl needs her help.
I’ll be honest, at first I rolled my eyes a little at the storyline of a feral wolf girl. It seemed like something out of Tarzan or something from a 90s movie. But this book really touched me. It was extremely well-written and believable. The author did her research in terms of child psychology and past cases of “wild” children. And when everything in this story is explained and it all comes together, it all makes sense and isn’t sensationalized at all. I don’t want to give out spoilers or give away the ending, but the author does an amazing job of weaving a phenomenal tale.
I’m not going to bother with star reviews. Those are for Amazon or Goodreads. From now on, I’m just going to share my feelings on the books I love. This one was definitely a winner in my opinion.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:
I truly did love this book and I’m so happy to have read it. I wish I belonged to a book club, so I could sit in a coffee shop for a least two or three hours and discuss every aspect of this book with other people who loved this book as much as I did. We could talk about this book while we refilled our mugs of coffee and ordered more dessert, even though we “should be on a diet.” And even though we “should be getting home,” there would be more to talk about, so we’d stay a little longer and speculate on what would happen after the ending. Then we’d guess who would play the characters if the book was made into a movie. In my mind, I’m picturing all of this happening, and tears are coming to my eyes as I’m typing this.
I used to belong to a book club where my mom was the leader, and my sister and I attended every meeting. We met at a coffee shop called Crooked Tree in St Charles Missouri. I drank way too much coffee and ate too much, and yes, I should have been on a diet. Now I live in New Hampshire. I don’t eat sugar any longer. I gave up coffee 15 months ago. And, sadly, my mother passed away from Covid February 13, 2021. She would have loved this book. She would have enjoyed reading it on her Kindle, not on audiobook, and I think she would have chosen it for her book club. At the beginning of the meeting that would have gone on far too long, she would have said, “Okay, Ladies, what did you think of the book?” And we would have talked and talked and talked. God, I miss those days. And I miss my mom.