After years of underestimating Caren J. Werlinger’s books, I now know when I open one that it’s going to be wonderful. There will be romantic aspects but it won’t be a romance novel. It’s going to be beautifully written, probably bittersweet, full of love and the need to belong. Because that’s what life is about.
Face the Wind is the sequel to one of my favourite books last year, When the Stars Sang. As spotty as my memory can be, I have never forgotten Little Sister Island, its atmosphere, the emotions Kathleen’s story evoked. I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to visit again and I’m very grateful to the author for making it happen. I was also reminded more than once of another novel by Caren Werlinger that I loved, Miserere.
For once, I don’t think I’ll say anything about what the book is about. I hadn’t read the blurb when I started reading and I’d recommend you do the same. You know where you’re going: Little Sister. A story by Caren Werlinger. You’re not taking any risk. As in When the Stars Sang, the island and its history matter as much as any character. And all the characters are relevant, none of them is superfluous and they all have significance.
I’m of two minds as to what this book (and the one before) made me feel. I love it. It’s gorgeous. I love the story. At the same time, though, it brings a longing to my heart that I don’t know how to manage. It makes me want to live in a place which doesn’t exist. It makes me want to enjoy the closeness the islanders feel with one another. And, you know, I’m an introvert. I don’t want people to be too close. And it’s an island. I live by the sea now, and I love it so much, but so much water makes me anxious sometimes. Yet I’m sure I’d love that place.
Another fascinating and sensitive point is that this is a story about belonging, about family too. As a non-biological parent, I know blood is not all that can make a family. It’s one option. I have a special connection with one of my sisters, even though I only met her when she was eighteen and I was thirty-one. I also have a special (yet different) connection with my daughter, who couldn’t be more my child if we were of the same blood. Blood can make a family, but it’s not the only thing that can, it’s not necessary to make a family and it’s definitely not enough, as Kathleen could attest.
I could keep writing about Face the Wind for a while, but your time will be better spent reading the book instead of my thoughts on it. I’ll just add that I absolutely love the cover, which is so simple and utterly stunning.