Title: The Road to Enchantment by Kaya McLaren
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher
As a young girl, Willow watched her mother leave their home in Washington State in a literal blaze of glory: she set the mattress of her cheating husband on fire in her driveway, roasting marshmallow peeps and hot dogs before the fire department arrived.
And with that, she and Willow set off to New Mexico, to a new life, to a world of arroyos and canyons bordering an Apache reservation. Willow was devastated. Her eccentric mother believed in this new life and set about starting a winery and goat ranch. But for Willow, it meant initially being bullied and feeling like an outsider. Today, as a grown woman, Willow much prefers Los Angeles and her job as a studio musician. But things tend to happen in threes: her mother dies, her boyfriend dumps her, and Willow discovers she is pregnant.
The DeVine Winery and Goat Ranch is all she has left, even if it is in financial straits and unmanageable back taxes. There is something, though, about the call of “home.” She’s surprised to find that her Apache best friend Darrel along with the rest of the community seems to think she belongs far more than she ever thought she did. Can Willow redefine what home means for her, and can she make a go of the legacy her mother left behind?
Told with Kaya McLaren’s humor and heart, The Road to Enchantment is a story about discovering that the last thing you want is sometimes the one thing you need.
Insightful and reflective, The Road to Enchantment by Kaya McLaren is a story of loss, healing and new beginnings.
Willow never quite forgave her mom for upending her life after discovering her husband was cheating on her. Starting over near an Apache reservation in a very isolated location in New Mexico, life was a struggle as they barely eked out a living on a goat farm and fledgling vineyard. Willow’s friendship with Darrel and his grandparents made life bearable growing up but as soon as she graduated from high school, she moved to Los Angeles to fulfill her dream of becoming a musician. Her relationship with her mom remains contentious and after a particularly unpleasant visit three years earlier, Willow has not returned to visit. This makes her mother’s unexpected death even more painful since she was never quite able to repair the rift between them. Returning to the DeVine Winery and Goat Ranch to settle her mom’s affairs, Willow tries to make peace with her past while at the same time attempting to figure out what comes next after she discovers she is pregnant.
Willow is quite introspective upon her return to the childhood she has yet to come to terms with. All these years later, she remains resentful of her mother’s decision to start over in a new place. She cannot forgive her dad for “replacing” their family with a new wife and child. She is disdainful of her mom’s dreams which left them scrambling to make ends meet. Willow hates everything the DeVine Winery and Goat Ranch represents yet as she sorts through her mother’s belongings, she begins to understand her a little better. Even more surprising is her altered perspective of her childhood home and the effect this has on her desire to continue pursuing her own dream in the midst of all of the changes that lie ahead of her as she makes a decision about her unplanned pregnancy.
While Willow is a likable and sympathetic character, she is also quite frustrating as she tries to decide her future. The answer is staring her right in the face all along, yet she continues to agonize over making the best choice for herself and her unborn child. She is a little self-absorbed and unforgiving initially but as she sorts through the detritus of her mom’s life and her own past, she finally begins to see things from her mom’s viewpoint. Willow stubbornly clings to the idea of returning to Los Angeles even as she acknowledges the problems she is facing if she follows through with her plans. Thankfully she finally begins to open her heart and mind to the possibility that resisting change might not be in her best interests. However, whether Willow can completely resolve her issues with her past in order to find happiness remains far from certain.
Although a little slow-paced, The Road to Enchantment is an emotionally compelling journey of self-discovery. This character-driven story is set against the harsh but beautiful New Mexico landscape and Kaya McLaren beautifully incorporates intriguing aspects of Apache heritage into the storyline. An absolutely breathtaking story of coming to terms with a painful past and forging a new path when life takes an unexpected turn that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to fans of the genre.