Leanna Sain’s new novel, WISH, reviewed in WNC Woman’s Magazine

Book Review: “Wish” By Leanna Sain

Reviewed by Mary Ickes


Wish By Leanna Sain


With this novel, Ms. Sain crosses over from Southern suspense or grit-lit to the young adult genre. May she be as successful in this category as with her trilogy. Gate to Nowhere (2008), her first novel, won Foreword Magazine’s Book-of-the-Year Award.  Return to Nowhere (2009) won the NCSH Fiction Award, and Magnolia Blossoms (2010) received a nomination for the Global E-book Award.

Maddie McGuire, at age 12, lost her mother to ovarian cancer; three years later her father, Doug, according to the police report, set their home afire and shot himself.  Maddie vacillates between wondering How could he have done such a cruel thing?  and certainty that her father was murdered.  She lives with Gram (Doug’s mother), a woman with the compassion of a concentration camp matron:  After two years, there should have been some sort of improvement, but the girl seemed to sink deeper and deeper into herself. Gram incessantly denounces Maddie for fabricated faults, including laziness for trying to sleep in on Saturday mornings, and slovenliness if room inspections reveal the slightest disorder.

Transferring from an enormous high school, where she disappeared into the crowd, to St. Vincent’s, with 400 students, escalates Maddie’s vulnerability.  But Laura Ingram, her new friend, convinces Maddie that her only hope of outwitting Gram is pretending to rebound.  Laura is right on!  While watching Maddie, wearing a goofy reindeer sweater, race off for Christmas shopping with Laura, Gram had indeed been speechless, for once. At Macy’s Five Twelves Believe-Meter, Maddie wishes to see her father again.  Though she knew her wish was foolish, the Disappointment changed to despair, the deep-down kind, out of sight.

A few days later, Maddie discovers, in her father’s papers, a list of twenty-three names, including her mother’s.  She concludes that all were cancer patients who died within weeks or months of her mother.  Cancer kills people everyday within weeks or months of someone else, so why compile a list of these particular patients?  Convinced that she finally has a tangible clue leading to her father’s murderer, Maddie seeks someone with the legal authority to investigate further.  Her prospects are dismal: Joe Peretti, her father’s partner and a close family friend, deserted her after the funeral; and she instinctively distrusts Doug’s friend, Detective Anne Benston-Harris.  Investigating separately, they discover that a depraved and mercenary mind preyed on the twenty-three cancer patients.

Ignoring her father’s admonition to always trust her gut feeling, Maddie finds herself woven into a web of intrigue and danger beyond anything she could have imagined.

As Maddie matures from a girl making foolish wishes to a young woman fighting for her life, she proves herself an admirable heroine in Ms. Sain’s first young adult novel.

Leanna Sain lives on Miracle Hill Farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband, two cats, one dog, a flock of chickens, and a herd of dairy goats.  When not writing, she keeps busy as a free-lance portrait artist, co-owner of a retail store, and an organic gardener.


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