The Sunday Book Review: Still Life in Shadows by Alice Wisler
Posted by Lisa Lickel on September 16, 2012
By Alice Wisler
Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: River North; New Edition (July 24, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802406262
- ISBN-13: 978-0802406262
From the publisher: It’s been fifteen years since Gideon Miller ran away from his Amish community in Carlisle, Pennsylvania as a boy of fifteen. Gideon arrives in the Smoky Mountains town of Twin Branches and settles in at the local auto mechanic’s garage. He meets a host of interesting characters -the most recent acquaintances are Kiki, an autistic teen, and her sister Mari. Known as the “Getaway Savior” he helps other Amish boys and girls relocate to life in modern America.
One day the phone rings. On the other end is his brother Moriah calling from Florida. Of course Gideon welcomes his brother to stay with him and offers him a job. But Moriah is caught in a web which ends in his death and forces Gideon to return to the town of his youth, with his brother’s body in the back of a hearse and Mari and Kiki at his side. He must face not only the community he ran away from years ago but also his own web of bitterness. Will he be able to give his anger over to God and forgive his father?
Wisler’s latest novel about gritty reality won’t disappoint her fans who have waited for another offering. Wisler calls upon her upbringing in Japan to create the characters of Kiki and Mari, sisters who are on their own after leaving dysfunctional parents. Mari is the manager of a tea shop in Twin Branches, a tourist stop in the Smoky Mountains, and in charge of her teenaged autistic sister, Kiki. Twin Branches seems a great stop not only for tourists, but other runaways seeking escape, especially for those in malfunctioning Amish communities to the north, who know they can rely on Gideon Miller. Gideon run away fifteen years ago, and has since made a life for himself in Twin Branches. That life, albeit emotionally clogged and one-dimensional, includes helping others who dream of an English existence. Gideon offers those who can reach him a month’s start to get themselves together and make a fresh start in an alien land, or go home
Gideon doesn’t realize how narrow his life is until he meets the exotic but non-flamboyant Mari at his favorite tea shop, and falls in love. Kiki, with her uncanny inability to fit in except when absolutely necessary, and Gideon’s brother Moriah, may put a permanent cramp in his style when he decides he wants to date Mari.
This tale of realizing closure and forgiveness make for healthy futures is a spiderweb of secrets, revelations, family dysfunction and family triumphs. Empathize with Mari and Gideon as they face the challenges of adulthood before they were properly prepared, and rejoice at their triumphs along the path to forgiveness.
Kik’s autism adds for color commentary to what could otherwise be a simple story with characters rubbed too raw to come out of their shells. Life blooms slowly. I sometimes wondered if I should laugh while reading this story, and then decided that life is too curious to hold back. Told from Gideon and Kiki’s perspectives, the reader will find much to enjoy in this gentle and emotional read.
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