Review: The Wild Way Home

Published by Bloomsbury
Cover Illustration: Ben Mantle & Lettering: Patrick Knowles
Publishing on 1st July 2020

The Wild Way Home is an absolute treasure trove of adventure, excitement and danger set in a wild and natural environment whilst, at its heart, it resonates with the importance of family, friendship and acceptance.  This is a truly breath-taking story – both painful and heart-warming – that completely captured me as I was transported back in time for an action-packed adventure with Charlie and Harby who prove that being born millennia apart is no barrier to friendship.

Twelve-year-old Charlie has been wishing for a baby brother or sister at every birthday and that dream is finally realised with the arrival of a baby brother.  However, Charlie’s dream soon turns into a painful nightmare when it is revealed that new-born baby, Dara, has a life-threatening heart condition.

With fragile emotions in turmoil, Charlie escapes to Mandel Forest where a young boy lies injured in the river.  But this boy is wearing deerskins, owns a spear and is hostile towards Charlie. Time has wound back to a Stone Age Mandel Forest which is familiar, yet unfamiliar …

The Stone Age boy, Harby, is desperate to find his baby sister Mothga, so the children soon find themselves on a dangerous undertaking to discover what has happened to her, an adventure that sees them coming face-to-face with some of the Forest’s wild inhabitants, with an enigmatic stranger and with painful truths that cannot stay locked in memory.  The story-telling is absolutely superb: the build-up of tension, danger and revelations kept me on the edge of my seat, fearful and hopeful, enveloping me in this wildly gorgeous world with two young children who I really cared about.

Can being lost in the past, caught up in Harby’s quest to find his sister, help Charlie to find the way back to family, to have the courage to accept a heart-breaking situation and no longer run from pain?

The relationship between Charlie and Harby is wonderfully portrayed from their fear-filled, uncertain first meeting, to the leap of faith shown in the tentative building of trust which leads to a protective friendship which allows them both to open up to each other and overcome fear.  Both children show incredible courage and resilience when faced with terrible danger and heart-breaking discoveries. They help each other to accept the heartache and pain in their lives and, in doing so, find a shared bond and wonderful camaraderie. 

I really enjoyed the genuine appreciation for the natural environment with its vivid depiction of Mandel Forest both in the present and the past.  Landmarks from the past have undoubtedly changed over the passage of millennia, but are still recognisable in Charlie’s time.  Charlie enjoys living at the edge of the forest and has a real affinity for it, making it a well-loved playground and a source of natural treasures to collect. 

Charlie’s gender is undisclosed throughout the story, so it is left for the reader to imagine Charlie through their own inferences and experiences.  Growing up in the wilds of rural Ireland, I completely understand Charlie’s affinity with nature, the collection of found items, and just the joyous abandon in roaming this environment which is a natural playground. For me, Charlie resonates as a young girl who runs from her pain to the place where she can seek solace, to the place that she feels in the depths of her soul, to the heart of the forest.

The Wild Way Home is an exhilarating and heartfelt journey into the depths of an ancient past, resounding with a powerful message of the strength to be gained from family and friendship.  A simply stunning and richly evocative must-read story which lingers long after the last page is closed.

Thank you to Beatrice May and Bloomsbury for a proof of the story in exchange for my honest opinion.

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