I read Katie’s second novel without having read the first. (This is quite out of the ordinary for me.)
So, now, I’ve gone back and read Katie’s first published novel, Wildflowers from Winter.
And it’s fantastic. And tough. And emotional. And well-written. And full of grace.
Wildflowers from Winter introduces us to Bethany Quinn, a 28-year-old architect who has been living the past 10 years burying her past in an effort to make herself anything but what she used to be and where she used to come from.
But when tragedy strikes her hometown of Peaks, Iowa, she’s forced back to visit people she’s purposefully neglected, including her mom, her grandfather, and her childhood best friend, Robin Price.
Several effects force Bethany to stay longer than expected…and evaluate her past and present more than she may have wanted.
Just as in Katie Ganshert’s second novel, readers are able to feel empathy for the characters even in early chapters. You get to know the characters quickly, and you care quickly.
That said, the characters feel so real, with relatable thoughts, questions, feelings. You won’t find fake, too-good-to-be-true characters here. Every character has his or her own faults (realistic faults based on their past experiences). Bethany built up such a wall around her own heart that I didn’t even like her until about two-thirds the way through the book. (This is a sign of a well-written book to me.)
When I think about the characters of a book and their world in other times of my day when I’m not reading the book, I know it’s a well-written book. Katie did just that with this debut novel.
We read from numerous points of view (at least 4), which may confuse some readers, but Katie explores each character’s psyche well. (For readers concerned about this, Wishing on Willows doesn’t change point of view quite as often. Stick with it for Wildflowers from Winter, too. It’s worth it.)
Though Bethany Quinn and Evan Price are the main characters of Wildflowers from Winter, Robin’s story kept peeking through (with good reason), and it’s Robin’s story that Katie’s explores in Wishing on Willows. I actually finished Wildflowers from Winter wanting to re-read Wishing on Willows since I was able to learn more about Robin’s backstory and get to know both Evan and Bethany so much more.
In all of Katie’s writing so far, she tackles honest questions about faith from characters who both believe and who have stepped away from their faith for a time. Some faith-based fiction struggle to relay these questions in a non-preachy way, but Katie draws readers in, sparking their own questions, thoughts, and exploration. It’s stellar how she writes these components of her stories, really, and with unique imagery without sounding forced.
“He kept throwing tragedies in his path, one after the other, and all Evan could do was toss one aside so his hands would be free to catch the next one.” – Wildflowers from Winter, p. 109
Tackling subjects like balancing control, false teachings, and trust, Wildflowers from Winter reinforces a loving God full of grace, not legality. And growth from tragedy. A beautiful read.
Have you read Wildflowers from Winter? Check out Katie’s page about the book with lots of interesting extras on the book, setting, and characters! (I love that she does this for each of her books!)
Disclosure: I have NO material connection to this post. I fell in love with Katie’s writing through Wishing on Willows and read Wildflowers from Winter on my own accord. All opinions expressed are my own.