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  • Writer's picturePatti Callahan Henry

AudioFile Magazine Review

Updated: Jul 21, 2023


By Patti Callahan Henry | Read by Cynthia Erivo, Patti Callahan Henry [Note] Fiction • 12.5 hrs. • Unabridged • © 2023

Narrator Cynthia Erivo's quiet assurance permeates this dual-timeline audio about the powerful alchemy of storytelling. In 1939, two girls, Hazel and Flora Lea, are evacuated from London to escape imminent war. Flora Lea mysteriously disappears. In 1960, Hazel, now a rare bookshop clerk, opens a package and discovers a book of the same stories she once made up to calm Flora Lea.

Erivo rarely raises her voice, yet through desperate tones, she expertly conveys Hazel's search for answers to the mysteries of her missing sister and the appearance of the stories from long ago. Erivo seamlessly adopts the charming lilt of young Flora and the American accent of the woman who has unwittingly written the fanciful stories that connect Hazel's past with her present

N.M. © AudioFile 2023, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2023]

Trade Ed. • Simon & Schuster Audio • 2023 DD ISBN 9781797155982 $23.99

Listen to Audio Clip

Audio excerpt courtesy of Simon & Schuster Audio from THE SECRET BOOK OF FLORA LEA by Patti Callahan Henry, read by Cynthia Erivo with a note read by the author. Copyright © 2023 by Patti Callahan Henry. Used with permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

About the Book

When a woman discovers a rare book that has connections to her past, long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed.

In the war-torn London of 1939, fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora are evacuated to a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the kind Bridie Aberdeen and her teenage son, Harry, in a charming stone cottage along the River Thames, Hazel fills their days with walks and games to distract her young sister, including one that she creates for her sister and her sister alone—a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own.

But the unthinkable happens when young Flora suddenly vanishes while playing near the banks of the river. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister’s disappearance, and she carries that guilt into adulthood as a private burden she feels she deserves.

Twenty years later, Hazel is in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore to a career at Sotheby’s. With a charming boyfriend and her elegantly timeworn Bloomsbury flat, Hazel’s future seems determined. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing an illustrated book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars. Hazel never told a soul about the imaginary world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to Flora’s disappearance? Could it be a sign that her beloved sister is still alive after all these years?

As Hazel embarks on a feverish quest, revisiting long-dormant relationships and bravely opening wounds from her past, her career and future hang in the balance. An astonishing twist ultimately reveals the truth in this transporting and refreshingly original novel about the bond between sisters, the complications of conflicted love, and the enduring magic of storytelling.



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