Author Patti Callahan Henry poses for a photo with her latest book at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library.
Sunday, September 24, 2023
New York Times Best-selling Author Patti Callahan Henry opened the Selma and Dallas County Public Library’s Lunch at the Library series for 2023. On Thursday, Henry discussed her latest book, “The Secret Book of Flora Lea” to a packed audience.
The book, set outside Oxford in the hamlet of Binsey, is about a woman who discovers a rare book that has connections to her past, and finds that long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed.
“The book is set in a time, 1939, where children are sent away,” Henry said. “The book is a mystery.”
Kristen Harmel, a New York Times bestselling author, praised “The Secret Book of Flora Lee” in her review.
“Patti Callahan Henry is a master of the elusive fairy tale, and nowhere is her talent on better display than in the pages of The Secret Book of Flora Lee, a bittersweet tale of loss, destiny, and the strings of deep love that bind us together across the years,” Harmel wrote.
This was Henry’s sixth visit to the Selma-Dallas County Public Library as Selma is a short drive from her home in Mountain Brook.
“I love the Selma-Dallas County Public Library and the people that run it,” Henry said. “Libraries are my heart. I try to support libraries when and if I can. I made a vow long ago when I was first published that I would never say no to libraries.”
Henry said that she enjoys meeting readers of her best-selling books.
“I love talking about my books, of course, because they are living things to me,” Henry said. “But mostly, I like to talk about what the books mean to them, which is why I love talking to library groups or reader groups.’’
Selma-Dallas County Public Library Executive Director Becky Nichols said it is always enjoyable to have Henry being part of the Lunch at the Library series.
“Patti is a wonderful speaker with her own brand of storytelling and talk.,” Nichols said. “She’s a good friend.”
When a woman discovers a rare book that connects 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.
THE SECRET BOOK OF FLORA LEA Author: Patti Callahan Henry Release Date: May 2, 2023 Publisher/Imprint: Atria Books Pages: 368 Hardcover, e-book, audio, hardcover, paperback, and audio CD Narrator: Award-winning, Cynthia Erivo by Simon & Schuster Audio