STARRED REVIEW
August 18, 2015

Mothers, daughters and a literary legacy

By Julianna Baggott
Review by
Julianna Baggot’s latest novel refuses to be confined to only one genre. Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders is a captivating multigenerational family saga, a love story and a mystery—tinged with a bit of fantasy.
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Julianna Baggot’s latest novel refuses to be confined to only one genre. Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders is a captivating multigenerational family saga, a love story and a mystery—tinged with a bit of fantasy.

Told in the voices of four women, the story begins with the difficult birth of Harriet Wolf, the matriarch, in a Baltimore suburb in 1900. Born to a fragile, depressed mother, and deemed by the doctor to be “not fit,” Harriet is sent by her father to the Maryland School for Feeble Minded Children, where she resides for 13 years. But life has other things in store for Harriet: After a roller-coaster childhood, she becomes a successful author of a series of best-selling books—as well as a mother to a daughter, Eleanor, who provides the novel’s second voice.

Eleanor has been abandoned by her husband and is still haunted by the fatherless state in which she was raised. Her mother’s series of six books have been published, beginning in 1947, to great acclaim—and there’s even a Harriet Wolf Society, established after Harriet’s death.

The final two voices are those of Eleanor’s daughters, and the chapters written in their words illuminate how events in both Eleanor’s and Harriet’s lives have rippled outward into their own. With the discovery of Harriet’s long-hidden seventh book in her beloved series her grandchildren, like the reader, begin to understand their grandmother’s amazing story—one of abandonment, love and lifelong commitment—which binds the three remaining women together.

Baggot’s mesmerizing tale of the resilient ties of motherhood and the bonds between sisters will resonate with a wide variety of readers.

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