A young girl, wanting things back the way they used to be before her mother died, pins her hopes on a wishing well in this debut middle-grade novel.
Molly Bell’s beloved father has just remarried. The 11-year-old girl, still grieving her mother’s death two years before, feels cross and abandoned as Dad and her stepmom, Faith, go on their honeymoon. They leave the tween and Faith’s 6-year-old son, Henry, in the care of Molly’s grandparents on their farm. Although Molly tries to make the best of it and finds comfort working outdoors, she resents her grandparents’ attention to Henry and can’t untangle her emotions, feeling unloved and unlovable. She has compounded her unhappiness by giving up the sport she excelled at—soccer—due to misplaced guilt. A remote old wishing well on the property becomes the focus of her dreams (“It looked ancient, like old ruins that she had just discovered. It was as if Molly had been transported to a far away place in time. The bricks and stones were covered with overgrown weeds, making the well seem like it was almost alive”). She wishes for her mother, a best friend, and a life without Henry and Faith. In unexpected ways, some of her wishes come true. But does Molly actually hold the key to her own happiness? Geraghty clearly respects her tween audience, inviting empathy for each character with touching and realistic revelations of what lies underneath Henry’s brattiness, for instance, and Grandpa’s abruptness. Helping Molly heal are a lonely dog and the girl’s growing awareness of the vulnerabilities of others (including Grandpa, who lost his leg and his best friend in Vietnam). That Molly finds her way through turmoil is predictable, but she also recognizes the impact of her self-pity and rage. The author shapes Molly’s journey with a deft and informed touch while deepening the narrative with vivid imagery: “Grandpa Cody gazed out his passenger side window, his leathery skin illuminated by the glow of the sunrise and his long grey ponytail waving gently in the breeze. A slow and hearty country song played on the radio.”
A heroine struggles to find her way back from despair and anger to joy and acceptance in this highly relatable tale for tweens.