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The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell
Pub. Date: September 6, 2016
Source: finished hardcover via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: 26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown—and her past—behind for good.

Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina—also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.

As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love—and her chance at happiness—all over again.
Genre: Contemporary, Magical Realism, FOOD

The moment I heard about Susan Bishop Crispell’s The Secret Ingredient of Wishes, I knew it was a book for me: a woman with an ability to grant wishes might have accidentally granted a 4-year-old’s deepest desire to own a unicorn… With the sudden appearance of a pony with an ice cream cone attached to its head (hey, it was the best her abilities could do) Rachel knew she needed to get out of town. Away from her curse, away from painful memories of the one wish she’s been trying to forget.

An empty gas tank leaves her stranded in Nowhere, North Carolina at the front stoop of an elderly woman named Catch. Crotchety as they come, Catch nonetheless took Rachel in for the night (and called over Southern gentleman Ashe to fill a gas can). Fully intending on being on her way the next morning, Rachel soon discovers there’s far more to Nowhere than she realized. And maybe, just maybe, she can find the acceptance and forgiveness she’s been denying herself all these years.

I absolutely love magical realism, so it was a total no-brainer when I received a pitch for this book. Once I began reading, I was completely hooked. Crispell breathed life into Nowhere and it was such a charming, picturesque town full of people I would love to get to know: there’s Rachel’s new boss Evelyn who owns an organic and homemade beauty supply shop; Lola, Ashe’s scheming soon-to-be-ex-wife who might know a thing or two about Rachel’s past; Catch herself who possesses her own unique ability – she can keep secrets tucked away with one of her pies. These characters were so wonderfully crafted and bursting with their own unique personalities. Rachel’s own backstory held me captive: when she and her brother were children, she wished him away in the heat of an argument…and before she knew it, he was gone. The door to his room was just a solid wall, her parents assumed Michael was simply an imaginary friend, family photographs revealed spaces between Rachel and her parents as though she decided to stand off to the side in each one. Through it all Rachel never forgot her brother – and never forgave herself – and her adamant insistence that Michael was actually her brother caused a huge rift in the family. Rachel wound up in a psych ward, her parents split, and shortly after Rachel turned eighteen, her mother took her own life.

While there were a few twists I saw coming, it didn’t hinder my enjoyment one bit and I tore through The Secret Ingredient of Wishes in a single sitting. What initially seemed like a fluffy, light-hearted read held a surprising amount of depth and I’m pleased to say Susan Bishop Crispell can hold her own against the genre’s top writers – fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Karen Russell are sure to feel right at home in Nowhere.

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