Jessie and her husband, Will, have been searching a few months for a big house in the country so they can move away from London. They feel it will be a good move for Will’s teenager, Bella, who’s been troubled since the death of her mother, Will’s first wife. And it would be a wonderful way to raise their preschooler, Romy — out in the fresh air, with plenty of room to run and wander and explore. When they find Applecote Manor it seems to be just perfect: It needs lots of work, but that means they’ll be able to afford it.
But Applecote has its ghosts: A girl went missing there more than 50 years earlier and was never found. Audrey’s cousins used to spend weeks in the summer with her at Applecote before she disappeared, but it takes five years until they end up back there, spending the end of the summer with their bereft aunt and uncle.
The story of The Wildling Sisters goes back and forth between August of 1959, when the four Wilde sisters stayed at Applecote and shared a horrific bonding experience, and the present, when Jessie is settling her blended family in to the old home.
There’s a sense of foreboding hanging over the story in both times: Readers know something devastating is going to happen to teens Flora, Pam and Margot and preteen Dot, that they will have a secret to keep of their own, all on top of dealing with the secrets that underlie the disappearance of their cousin. And those secrets somehow cling to the house decades later, when Jessie and Will move in. Will they be able to find some peace in the countryside, or will the ghosts of the past, however unrelated to them, make it impossible?
I enjoy stories of dark secrets from the past bubbling up to the surface in the present day, so I was eager to find out how this book played out. I wasn’t disappointed. I felt invested in what happened not just to the four “Wildling” sisters (as their uncle called them) but to Jessie, who so much wants to make peace with her stepdaughter and the ever-present specter of her husband’s seemingly perfect dead wife. I couldn’t put the book down for the last third and enjoyed how the ending came together.
Rated: Moderate. There are three uses of strong language and a few other uses of milder language; sexual content includes vague references to the free lifestyle of the four girls’ mother and the developing bodies of the girls, as well as a few teen-girl observations on seeing or almost seeing manly body parts. The one narrator talks about her sister saying she almost “went all the way” and there is a scene of some kissing and fondling.
*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.