Wild Beauty Grows a Beautiful Tale
Written by Guest Contributor Marissa Brantley
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemone folds readers into a world of magic, flowers, romance, and danger. First, I would like to acknowledge this beautiful cover, the one pictured here is an OwlCrate exclusive cover, but the version you can dig up in bookstores is also beautiful. I will not hold back on gardening puns, and I will not apologize! I was worried the story wouldn’t live up the magic of this cover, but thankfully it did. With notes of Practical Magic and Chocolat, we’re pulled into a world with five female cousins, and three generations of mothers, grandmothers, great aunts, and aunts-all who can grow hundreds of thousands of flowers based on their namesake. Which sounds fantastic and they probably all smell really good. But there’s a catch, a few catches actually- if they ever try to leave their home, La Padera, they will die. And if they love a man hard enough, he will eventually disappear. This becomes a problem when all five cousins, fall in love with a girl. What will happen to her? And what of the mysterious boy who appeared in La Padera with no memory of his perhaps sinful past? As a life-long reader of mysteries, I am hard to surprise, but Wild Beauty surprised me, IN THE BEST WAY. Lush writing and full of metaphors and magic and little painted wooden horses.
This story is heavy in diversity, as nearly every character we care about, save for one, is Latinx. Wild Beauty also deals with issues involving gender identity, the fluid sexuality, immigration, sexism and racism. It does not hold back. And while this may seem like a lot of issues to shove into a single book, none it feels forced or preachy. These issues fall naturally within the plot. Watch out toxic masculinity, the Nomeolvides girls will find you.
The plot moves smoothly, but at times the language, repetitiveness, and descriptions bog it down, so you feel like you’re wading through it get to the plot. However, the plot is well-thought out and worth mudding through the rest. If you’re a fan of magical realism, this one is for you. Even if you are not, I wouldn’t say this is so heavy in magical realism that you spend 80% of your reading time wondering what’s real-which is what people tend to find annoying about it. It’s magical realism for beginners, so it’s a bit easier to swallow for people who may not enjoy this genre.
I’m still unsure what time period we’re focused in. There are cars, phones, and instant mashed potatoes but the girls all wear dresses, save for one that wears trousers or blazers. Maybe everyone in La Padera is an old-fashioned dresser? In this way, it reminded me a little of the movie Penelope that is very aesthetically pleasing but we still have no idea where the family is actually living. Is it Boston, London, or New York? Someone tell me. Wild Beauty is a romantic, mysterious and heart-breaking journey that does not disappoint.
Marissa is a grad school student, writer, and feminist who’s surviving Arkansas in our current political climate. She gets through it with her two fluffy cats and her Hufflepuff tendencies.