The Root of Magic by Kathleen Benner Duble
Format: ARC Paperback
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 224
Publishing: June 11th, 2019
Source: Blue Slip Media
Opening Line: "Are we going to die? Wisp asked from the depths of his blankets in the backseat."
Shortly after Christmas, Willow, Wisp and their mother are traveling home from Canada following Willow's game-saving win in her hockey tournament. Suddenly, a winter storm strikes causing their car to hit a patch of ice, slide off the road, trapping them precariously off the side of a cliff. They're soon rescued when James and Layla McHenry appear in their snowplow and pull them to safety, just in the nick of time. The Mc Henry's take them to the town of Kismet, Maine to wait out the snowstorm where Cora has a room all ready for them at her bed and breakfast. It's as if they were expected.
It's difficult for the family to settle in at the bed and breakfast, Willow's mother is very concerned about her younger brother Wisp's health as he suffers from a mysterious illness that has baffled doctors and for which there seems to be no known cause, treatment or cure. Wisp has these bouts resulting in him being hospitalized and their mother is worried about what she will do if he has another episode while they're stranded. In the meantime, they will continue to follow the Duchad family series of spoken and unspoken rules regarding Wisp's health. Willow's life has been molded around the things that Wisp can and can't manage, everything from eating healthy foods, no excitement to treating him with kid gloves like he will break at any moment. Willow and her brother never have the chance to run or play in earnest together. Most distressing is that their parents have even separated because of a difference in opinion on the way to manage Wisp's illness.
While in town, Willow meets a local boy, Topher. Topher has a secret, one that he seems to want to share with Willow about the town, but one that he can't share. It results in Topher trying to push Willow toward going home. The longer that Willow spends in town, the more mysterious this little town becomes, even making the town seem creepy, slightly ominous with its hidden secrets and people who appear telepathic. How will Willow convince her mother that they need to leave, especially when her mom starts to act like they belong here?
One of the big questions posed by The Root of Magic is the difference between fate and free will. Fate being that your life is preplanned, already decided versus the free will of choosing your own path, having the ability to change things yourself. The characters in the story are given an opportunity to know what each day has in store for them, the knowledge of everything that is to happen tomorrow and the time to prepare for it. A life that is predictable, ordered, knowing what to expect, with less of the stress of the unknown. Yet, although it may bring peace of mind, what do you give up in the process? What about being spontaneous, the joy of surprising someone? What are you loosing with knowing tomorrow? This is the dilemma that faces Willow when she enters the town of Kismet. Something she isn't really fully aware of until she meets Topher. Willow's mom's decision seems to be clear, she wants the knowledge of tomorrow, but in the end, its Willow that has to make the choice whether this is a future that she wants. Even though Wisp is so ill and she longs for the familiar way things used to be before, maybe Willow's also ready to deal with the pain of the unknown. I really enjoyed The Root of Magic, it gives you a lot to ponder and I always enjoy mysterious towns, especially during the winter.