Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book review: Elderberry Croft, Volume 2 (April through June) by Becky Doughty

The story of the Coach House Trailer Park and its inhabitants continues in volume 2 of Becky Doughty’s serial novel, Elderberry Croft. All of the characters featured in this volume were already introduced in volume 1, but now we learn more about them. In April Shadows, the still mysterious Willow Goodhope helps to draw Shelly, the neighborhood “cat lady”, out of the shadows of OCD and childhood trauma. Park manager Eddie is featured in May Enchantment, as he investigates an unknown man who spooks some of the residents during his late-night walks in the neighborhood. This episode does not follow the usual pattern of the others, in which Willow is seen helping the neighbor with some problem. Instead, Willow is presented in the May episode as a more vulnerable figure who needs her friends at Coach House as much as they need her. Kathy’s friend Myra is the main character in June Melody. Willow helps Myra understand that it is okay to move on from sorrowful losses in the past and that comfort is better found with loved ones than at the bottom of a sangria glass. Shelly, Eddie, and Myra might all be regarded as misfits in society generally, but Doughty skillfully shows their humanity without romanticizing them.

In the episodes of volume 2, Willow no longer seems to have any trace of the supernatural about her, but the magic of friendship still underlies all the stories. Willow does at times appear to have an uncanny ability to know just exactly the right thing to say or do in any situation, as when she has the perfect reaction to the tension created by some of the male guests at Myra’s card party. But in this volume, Willow comes across as a more wounded figure who is struggling to keep going every day. We are given occasional glimpses of her deep sadness in private moments, as when Myra catches her singing and playing a guitar.

Volume 2 features compelling characters, a deepening mystery, and more nuggets of herbal lore. After finishing it, you will want to move on to volume 3 as soon as possible.

As of right now, the individual episodes April Shadows, May Enchantment, and June Melody are still available on Becky Doughty’s blog, If you read from her blog, you will also be treated to some photographs that illustrate the stories. These three episodes are collected in volume 2 of Elderberry Croft and are available for purchase through several retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. The whole series of 12 episodes is also available as a single ebook volume and as a paperback book.

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