The Southern Indie Bestseller List
The Southern Indie Bestseller List, as brought to you by IndieBound and SIBA, for the week ending Sunday, May 7, 2023. Based on reporting from the independent booksellers of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and IndieBound. For an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound.org.
THE SOUTHERN BOOKSELLER REVIEW
BY PATTI CALLAHAN HENRY
From the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis & Surviving Savannah comes her latest novel, The Secret Book of Flora Lea. Set outside Oxford in the hamlet of Binsey, and available now with Simon & Schuster Atria.
After two young sisters evacuate London to live with strangers in the English countryside as part of Operation Pied Piper during World War II, the younger goes missing and is presumed drowned until 20 years later when the older sister, who works in a London rare book shop, receives a children’s book based on the secret fairy tale only the sisters shared.
"Not very long ago and not very far away, there once was and still is an invisible place right here with us. And if you are born knowing, you will find your way through the woodlands to the shimmering doors that lead to the land made just and exactly for you." —HAZEL MERSEY LINDEN, 1939.
A missing sister, a mysterious fairy tale, The River Thames, and a lost love.
In the war-torn London of 1939, fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora are evacuated from their London home 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 dilapidated 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.
HARDCOVER FICTION 1. Happy Place Emily Henry, Berkley, $27, 9780593441275 2. Lessons in Chemistry Bonnie Garmus, Doubleday, $29, 9780385547345 3. The Covenant of Water Abraham Verghese, Grove Press, $32, 9780802162175 4. The Trackers Charles Frazier, Ecco, $30, 9780062948083 5. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow Gabrielle Zevin, Knopf, $28, 9780593321201 6. Hello Beautiful Ann Napolitano, The Dial Press, $28, 9780593243732 7. Hang the Moon Jeannette Walls, Scribner, $28, 9781501117299 8. Horse Geraldine Brooks, Viking, $28, 9780399562969 9. Small Mercies Dennis Lehane, Harper, $30, 9780062129482 10. Simply Lies David Baldacci, Grand Central, $30, 9781538750636 11. Remarkably Bright Creatures Shelby Van Pelt, Ecco, $29.99, 9780063204157 12. The Secret Book of Flora Lea Patti Callahan Henry, Atria Books, $28.99, 9781668011836 13. In the Lives of Puppets TJ Klune, Tor, $28.99, 9781250217448 14. Pineapple Street Jenny Jackson, Pamela Dorman Books, $28, 9780593490693 15. Demon Copperhead Barbara Kingsolver, Harper, $32.50, 9780063251922