Front Street/Boyds Mills Press: Honesdale, PA, 2009.
The title refers to four wild things: 1) Zöe, an eleven-year-old orphan, independent and forced to rely on herself from a young age (now living with her previously unknown doctor/sculptor uncle), 2) a feral black and white cat who sometimes favors residents with his trust and whose viewpoint is regularly expressed in the book, 3) a young white deer whose presence brings out the best and worst in people, and 4) an unknown teenage boy fending for himself in the local wilderness.
Much of the book has to do with Zöe and Uncle Henry's relationship, Zöe's past and concern that Henry will abandon her, physically or emotionally. Is Henry neglecting her, taking care of his own business, or giving her space to heal emotionally and grow? Or a mix of all three?
Zöe has an unusual maturity. She writes her own memoirs, heartily adopts Henry's friends as her own, opens her heart to strays, discovers and tends a secret hideaway (as a possible escape route), and risks everything when the need arises. She even has the sense to step back and analyze her situation when her uncle disagrees with her. She still does what she wants, but at least she understands his position.
Their circle of friends (Zöe, Henry, Fred, Bessie, and the Padre) all have spirit and their moments of headstrong rebellion. Usually in defense of others.
One of the best parts of the story is the cat's perspective before each chapter. The cat tells much of the backstory, including that of the wild boy, and it thinks philosophical thoughts about humans that otherwise wouldn't fit well in the story. Both narratives - the cat's and girl's are nicely written. The flow and anticipation level are perfect. I need to look for more of Carmichael's books. It was such a pleasure to read.
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