Wish You Well

Written by David Baldacci
Review by Nan Curnutt

David Baldacci, famous for his thrillers, has written a completely different kind of story. Wish You Well is a heartwarming coming-of-age novel. The lives of Louisa Mae Cardinal (known as Lou) and her 10-year-old brother Oz are completely changed when an accident leaves their father dead and their mother in a coma. Concerned friends send the children and their mother to Virginia to live with their only known relative. She is Lou’s namesake and her father’s grandmother, Louisa Mae Cardinal.

Baldacci writes with love and compassion about his native Virginia as he describes the experiences of these two city kids learning to live off the land. His multidimensional characters are not without flaws; however, most will be remembered fondly by the reader for their redeeming qualities that outweigh all else. Lou learns to look beyond appearances to see the good and understand the bad in everyone around her. Her great grandmother, Louisa, provides her with strength and stability as she learns to cope with her new life. While this novel is peopled with interesting characters, there are plenty of adventures to be experienced as well. The land provides many of it’s own challenges, as do the evil industrialists who seek to destroy it. There are a few places in the novel, especially during the courtroom scene, where the action becomes slightly melodramatic and predictable, but these are insignificant when compared to the depth of the very real characters Baldacci creates.

Baldacci explains in his author’s note that this novel is a labor of love. He has always been interested in writing of the history of his native Virginia. While seeking material for this novel, he was surprised to find “a lumberyard full” when interviewing his own family. The result is in part the story of how his mother grew up. Baldacci says, “…writing this novel was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.” Reading it is a rewarding experience as well. This would be a great novel to share with children and young adults.