New Release Book Review: Wildflower by Monique Mulligan

Microscopic threads bind
torn pieces of me.
Stitching my soul,
Hemming in memories.
New experiences appliqued over old.

This patchwork me
Frays when a snag pulls at
The fabric of my Self so
I gather the loose threads
And mend the tear
(invisible to most)
Before it becomes
a hole

©Monique Mulligan

That this book is released on International Women’s Day seems important as it is a novel that focuses on women, the way they are treated and the way domestic violence and abuse is still a huge issue, the only differences now are that it is talked about more and there are more resources for those who are able to escape their abusers, but violence against women is still a major factor in our society.

Wildflower was a book I found hard to put down even as I sometimes dreaded what might be coming. I have found it hard to really articulate the impact of this novel on me without giving too much of the story away and without going too far off on a tangent, something I often do when I read about issues I am passionate about or that cut close to my own personal experiences.

Told as a dual timeline narrative, we get nearly 11-year-old Jane’s story from the start of summer holidays at the end of 1979 through to the end of the holidays about 6 weeks later in 1980. Jane is friendless, she is bullied at school by Mary Evans who encourages others to exclude her from any and all social interactions. Her brother and his friends aren’t overly nice to her, especially one friend who is trouble with a capital T. When a new girl and her mum move in next door, Jane thinks all her Christmases have come at once and is determined to make this new girl her best friend.

My heart really went out to Jane, while I did have friends at school I was bullied badly and this resulted in big impacts on my self-esteem and self-worth that have followed me through much of my life. Jane’s new neighbour, Acacia, has had a very different family life from what Jane is used to, but despite this, they become fast friends. My heart went out to Acacia too, for different reasons. There is so much to unpack in the relationship between these two girls and their relationships with their respective parents, but I won’t do that unless others who read this want to have a group discussion, because personally, I need to unpack this entire novel.

One term that came up time and time again and set my teeth to grinding was ‘boys will be boys’ or words to that effect, and I wonder how much society’s mindset has changed from this. Boys will be boys, this thought process allows them to get away with anything, and not just boys, men too.

I really loved how Jane’s mum started to stand up for what she wanted as a woman, a job, a purpose outside the home, something not widely occurring back in the late 70s. I loved how as she looked for her own purpose she also started to stand up for other issues she believed in and I think realised she was setting an example to her daughters and her son in how they should be treated and how they should treat others. I liked how this had a ripple effect on the whole family.

The other timeline interspersed between the 1979/80 timeline, is 20 years on, and our narrator isn’t named until right at the end, I kept changing my mind about who it was, something I definitely won’t be giving away. The only thing we know about her is she has left her abusive husband, a massive step to take and one too many women (and men) aren’t able to do. We also learn she recognises a volunteer at the centre from her childhood, and we are left to wonder who each of these women is. As our mystery woman unpacks her life with her abuser and her life now she has escaped, we learn how easy it is to get caught in the cycle of abuse and how hard it is to leave and start again and the toll these events have on a person. I was so proud of this woman for being finally able to take the step towards breaking the cycle. And I was so glad that there are other women and resources out there to support them, though not enough and that needs to change. More importantly, society needs to change.

This book touched close to home at times and there were so many sentences I wanted to pull off the page because they resonated so much. My life could easily have been like Rose’s and our unknown narrator’s, anyone can find themselves in a situation they don’t know how to get out of, or they tell themselves they deserve the treatment they are getting, that they love their abuser, and it is easy to hide this from those around you, too easy sometimes because the people around us are busy with their own lives, have their own things going on and often don’t want to see what might be going on for someone else. We need to change this, to be more aware, to speak up and listen, really listen to what someone might or might not be saying. And when we do, we need to be willing to make changes and to help.

I highly recommend this novel, it is an emotional and heartfelt glimpse at domestic abuse and I think it is a book people will remember and hopefully talk about for a long time to come.

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