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patti callahan henry
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“[M]agical… An enchanting tribute to the
power of storytelling."
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.
The Secret Book of Flora Lea
“In this gorgeous ode to books and storytellers, Patti Callahan Henry shows that literature lives inside us, and can unite us despite the odds. Through war, young love, a sister’s remorse, and a mysterious land called Whisperwood, I was torn between savoring each word and tearing through the pages to learn what happened next. Pure magic!"
—Janet Skeslien Charles, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library
“The Secret Book of Flora Lea is a beguiling blend of hope, mystery and true familial love. It exposes the deep wounds of a family tragically separated because of war. Told in an utterly fresh way with dual timelines and a host of unforgettable characters this is a story that is both necessary and satisfying through the last page. Powerful and spellbinding!"
—Sadeqa Johnson International best-selling author of The House of Eve
"At the heart of this novel is a shattering loss that irrevocably changes the lives of a cast of complex, delightful characters. Henry is a born storyteller, keeping the reader on tenterhooks as she expertly unveils the truths and lies that drive this gripping, magical tale."
—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace
“Patti Callahan Henry has pulled off the near-impossible, she’s created a fantastical tale of myth, wartime history, and true heartache.
I absolutely loved this book!”
—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of The Many Daughters of Afong
“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 LEA, a bittersweet tale of loss, destiny, and the strings of deep love that bind us together across the years.
The terror and heartbreak of the WW2-era children’s evacuation of London collide with the dangling threads of an unsolved mystery that picks up nearly two decades later, at the dawn of the swinging sixties. This heartrending, captivating tale of family, first love, and fate will sweep you away.”
— Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Vanishing Stars and The Book of Lost Names
"Deft, lyrical and supremely satisfying, The Secret Book of Flora Lea isn’t so much a departure for Patti Callahan Henry as it is a culmination of her gifts as a novelist. This is a book about difficult history and unsinkable hope, ordinary magic in the form of love, and about how our stories can save and sustain us in the most trying moments of our lives. Callahan’s plot will keep you guessing even as her characters steal your heart. I loved it!
—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and When the Stars Go Dark
“Two sisters, dual time periods, a magical secret place, an abiding mystery — THE SECRET BOOK OF FLORA LEA is an enchanting story of survival against all odds. With her trademark warmth and a feather-light touch, Patti Callahan Henry weaves together events both real and imagined. Transporting, heartfelt, and atmospheric."
–Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of The Exiles
“A spellbinding tale of hope and perseverance, The Secret Book of Flora Lea is as enchanting and whimsical as the Whisperwood fairytale hidden within its pages. It reminds us that a happily-ever-after isn't out of reach—so long as we heed the tiny voice within, whispering that the real magic of the story may be closer than we think."
—Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary and The London Seance Society
"A world war and a fairy tale collide in the British countryside in 1940 — and Patti Callahan Henry is the perfect novelist to explore how the living are forever changed. The Secret Book of Flora Lea is a treasure: moving, surprising, and deeply evocative of an England that every day walked the tightrope between heartbreak and hope.”
— Chris Bohjalian, #1 New York Times Best-selling Author
"Most Anticipated Historical Fiction of 2023"
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signed first edition
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Patti Callahan Henry
1919 Oxmoor Road. PMB #303
Homewood, AL 35209
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The Secret Book of Flora Lea
by Patti Callahan Henry
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