Book Review: In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

  • Title: In the Middle of Hickory Lane
  • Author: Heather Webber
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Magical Realism, Southern Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
  • Would I recommend: As always! Heather Webber has another winner here, about family, redemption, and a little bit of magic.

Synopsis:

From the USA Today bestselling author of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe comes Heather Webber’s next charming novel, In the Middle of Hickory Lane!

Emme Wynn has wanted nothing more her whole life than to feel like part of a family. Having grown up on the run with her con artist mother, she’s been shuffled from town to town, drawn into bad situations, and has learned some unsavory habits that she’s tried hard to overcome. When her estranged grandmother tracks her down out of the blue and extends a job offer—helping to run her booth at an open-air marketplace in small-town Sweetgrass, Alabama—Emme is hopeful that she’ll finally be able to plant the roots she’s always dreamed of. But some habits are hard to break, and she risks her newfound happiness by keeping one big truth to herself.

Cora Bee Hazelton has her hands full with volunteering, gardening, her job as a color consultant and designer, and just about anything she can do to keep her mind off her painful past, a past that has resulted in her holding most everyone at arm’s length. The last thing she wants is to form close relationships only to have her heart broken yet again. But when she’s injured, she has no choice other than to let people into her life and soon realizes it’s going to be impossible to keep her heart safe—or her secrets hidden.

In the magical neighborhood garden in the middle of Hickory Lane, Emme and Cora Bee learn some hard truths about the past and themselves, the value of friends, family, and community, and most importantly, that true growth starts from within.

My review:

I’ve loved Heather Webber’s books since I won an ARC of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe. I’ve reviewed South of the Buttonwood Tree and The Lights of Sugarberry Cove. Can a fourth book continue Ms. Webber’s winning streak with me?

Absolutely.

Emme Wynn’s mother uprooted Emme from Sweetgrass, Alabama years ago and took her young daughter along with her on a life of misdeeds and bad behavior. Emme cut ties with her when she turned eighteen and has been trying to build a life for herself free of her mother’s malicious influence.

But now home has found Emme. Her grandmother, Glory, has located her and invited her to come back to Sweetgrass, with a job offer to boot. The day Emme arrives, the police have found a body in the community garden on Hickory Lane. The neighborhood is abuzz. Word has it the body might be Glory’s long-lost sister.

It’s tough for Emme to settle in. She tries, though, and slowly, she starts to embrace Sweetgrass. Glory has taken her in and is showing her the ropes of working at her shop. She’s getting closer to her newfound cousin, Cora Bee. But Emme knows it can’t last. She knows she hasn’t been entirely truthful. She dreads the day she’ll have to reveal her secret and fears she’ll lose the new family and new home she’s found.

Webber creates a realistic small-town setting, populated with people you feel like you might know. I love the neighborhood on Hickory Lane in particular. It’s a place where people know and care about their neighbors. Sure, some of them might be a little nosey. But they generally poke their nose in your business because they care. That’s the kind of place I want to live.

Each chapter was introduced with a bit of wisdom about the flowers that Glory was passing on to Emme. I thought that was a lovely touch.

The story deals with hard topics. An abusive and manipulative parent, a loved one missing for decades, a friend struggling with memory loss and independent living, poor choices leading to undesirable results. Secrets kept can become a burden. Each woman in the story has something she has not shared with others and each woman is impacted by what she is hiding. But in the right time, a secret can be revealed and that burden lifted. Webber does a wonderful job of demonstrating how liberating it is to trust the people in our lives enough to share with them we’ve tried so long to keep hidden.

Secrets come to light, family found, a little dollop of romance, the healing we find in love and community. All of this blended beautifully with Webber’s trademark magical realism and whimsy adds up to a winner of a book.

Five stars, and if you haven’t read her books, what are you waiting for?!

Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley and Forge Books. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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