How many of us have books, or series of books, that provided an escape for us as children and, because of that, we continue to love them as adults? How many of us longed to receive an owl-delivered letter from Hogwarts; find a secret entrance at the back of the closet/wardrobe; tumble down a rabbit hole; be transported by a tornado; or receive a visit from the local, beloved wizard challenging us to take a trip through Middle-Earth? For Lucy Hart, a girl whose childhood was defined by neglect and apathy from her parents, it was the Clock Island series by Jack Masterson.
Now a twenty-six-year-old teacher’s assistant, Lucy is desperate to adopt 7-year-old Christopher. Christopher has been orphaned due to his parents’ drug overdoses. Lucy wants to provide him with a new home and a caring guardian, but she lacks the funds and stability to do so.
After six years, Jack has written a new book in the Clock Island series. However, rather than turning it over to his publisher and releasing the book in a traditional manner, Jack has other plans. He is inviting four people who, as children, ran-away to Clock Island in Maine from problematic households. They will compete for the only copy of the new Clock Island book and whomever wins will be able to do with the book as they wish. Lucy is one of those competitors and she believes this could be her chance to make her, and Christopher’s, dream come true of becoming a family.
What kind of competition is Jack planning? Who are the other three contestants? Will Lucy be able to win the competition and create a new life for Christopher?
In The Wishing Game, debut author Meg Shaffer creates a marvelous story that is a blend of the fantastic, just shy of fantasy, and harsh reality. She allows readers to join Lucy on her adventure, where she actually gets to visit the Clock Island of the books she loves and spend time with the author of the book series that has meant so much to her.
Shaffer’s characters are nicely drawn. While at times they seem a bit mysterious, their histories and motivations are revealed as the novel progresses.
The competition is challenging. It begins with a series of riddles that readers will enjoy working out along with the characters in the novel. As the competition progresses, and more is disclosed about each of the contestants, readers may find it difficult to choose who they want to win the book.
While Shaffer creates a whimsical setting and set of circumstances, she doesn’t shy away from the darkness that has impacted each and every character and their lives. She creates the perfect balance between the fantasy of the books Jack has written, brought to life in the competition for his four chosen readers, and the harsh realities that lie just “behind the curtain,” emphasizing that one can’t exist without the other. It is also a novel about love, of all sorts, the importance family, biological or found, and the need to do the best we can with the time and resources we have at our disposal.
The Wishing Game will be a wish come true for readers who enjoy novels about the power of storytelling.
Read an interview with the author here.