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Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved every few years throughout her childhood and adolescence. After college in California, law school in Massachusetts, and a mercifully short stint in a large San Francisco law firm, she moved to Los Angeles. There she met her husband, who hates L.A. They eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University.
Wyle has been a voracious and compulsive reader as long as she can remember. She majored in English and American Literature major at Stanford University, which suited her, although she has in recent years developed some doubts about whether studying literature is, for most people, a good preparation for enjoying it. She has been reading science fiction for several decades, but also gobbles up character-driven mysteries and historical fiction, with the occasional foray into anything from chick lit to military history.
Wyle's voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of practicing appellate law. Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.
Wyle and her husband have two essentially-grown and wildly creative daughters, as well as a sweet but neurotic dog.
on June 05, 2013 :
I really enjoyed this story. It was rather a unique look at the afterlife.
This is a journey about a woman, Eleanor, who now that she is dead is trying to figure out her life. She wants to know what made her so restless? Why did she abandon her child to be raised by her parents? And now that she's been reunited with her family can she reconnect with them? Can she get them to forgive her? And will she come to understand the dreams she is having about people she has never met? Or will her being restless, unsettled, keep her from making changes and finding her answers?
It's interesting take on the afterlife because they all live a normal life, in the same world they did when they were alive. The neat part is they can change their age and be that age if they want. They can share an actual experience with a person, so they can see it like it is just happening. They can have that person feel an experience as another person. It definitely has some interesting twists and different concepts of what death may mean.
There is more I'd like to say but it will ruin the story for you. It's a bit confusing in the beginning mainly because I forgot they were all dead but keep reading, it all starts making sense. And there is such a cool twist in the story. I enjoyed reading it and would definitely recommend it. I look forward to reading more by this author
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on May 24, 2013 :
An interesting and compelling read about the afterlife. This version of a familiar topic between people and how life would be after we passed away and that of the author would differ greatly. In a Book/ Reading group this would make an interesting topic. Karen had to spend a considerable amount of time in creating the plot line that in the beginning was confusing. But as it unfolds you get drawn into the lives of this family that all meet up in the afterlife trying to make sense of Eleanor's choices in life. The main character in the book.
Meeting each character with their unique personalities and the shiftiness between ages and places of relevance had me pondering from page one. Not sure where she was going with this. The story line strange almost as if the author did not know where to go with the many different scenarios in the book.
But with time understanding dawned and it became more explainable.
The craftiness of the story line became apparent and I could enjoy the read for what it was. Looking at the list of editors I can understand why it was necessary to have them in order to make this a thought provoking book.
I would have loved to see a better ending though, after the long search Eleanora (who at first had no idea why she could never find a resting place for herself or her child) and Jordana (with the need to have a child and leave her husband behind) taking them on different journeys making some mistakes during their lives stopping abruptly with no real conclusion. Leaving you cheated with some important information not shared.
Mateo the husband that was left behind find himself in between two women who was his wife and a daughter that was not his daughter. His confusion evident as he struggle to come to grips with the new twist in his life. But because of wisdom and age he accepted Cassidy as his own.
This is a well written book with many twists and turns and the outcome unpredictable but yet very entertaining.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Hock G. Tjoa
on May 12, 2013 :
This is very well written with a powerful hook--what is it like in the after-life; specifically, how does a mother find closure for having left her daughter with her own parents who all die in an accident shortly thereafter?
But we the readers are asked to deal with "too much information"--if four characters in search of each other in the after-life are good, it appears that sixteen might be better, or perhaps sixteen times sixteen. Further, each character can choose to be whatever age they want and yes, (spoiler alert) there is sex in the after-life. This reader was distracted wondering if new memories could be made in the after-life, and any answer to this question brings the wonderful framing of the story down.
This is a great pity, for the writer is clearly inventive and has much to say to us.
(reviewed 82 days after purchase)
on March 28, 2013 :
Free book for review. The concept is good but was took way over the top, it needs to be toned down. Characters are ones you can connect with and yes even love.
(reviewed 26 days after purchase)
on March 08, 2013 :
Note: I was given a copy of this book by the author to review
Wander Home opens with a great description of a day at the beach, and instantly we get a sense of something different. Wyle doesn’t stop the story to explain though, she just keeps the scene going, choosing her moment to tell us about it, not when we ask for it. I have known many an author to do this to readers and I have to say I rather like the mystery if there is a chance it gets revealed to us later.
There is no real surprise this book is about death and the afterlife, Wyle’s preface tells readers that it is set in the afterlife, but the way she has chosen to write about it gives it a new perspective, and does actual make you forget this is supposed to be death. In that sense there was a Lovely Bones feel about it all. There was no connection to earth like Susie Salmon had, yet the ability to change “heaven” to be what you wanted and see people you once knew or even wanted to meet was similar. Not to lessen the impact of Wander Home mind you, it has been very well constructed as a reality and through description and detail it adds depth and truth.
We are first introduced to Cassidy, her grandparents Sarah and Jack, and her great grandmother Amanda playing on the beach. We are given no real answers about what is going on, not only regarding their situation, but also to the rules of this reality. You can only assume that this is how the world works and accept it, and then hope it is going to be revealed later on. The initial mystery does not remain long as the arrival of Cassidy’s mother Eleanor starts a chain reaction of clarification. As things are explained to Eleanor, we too are given an explanation. This is often the case, we learn as they learn. In well written stories it makes the necessary information parts smoother without the need of long paragraphs where entire worlds are broken down for reader understanding before the story can continue.
The story is engaging in as much as you want to find out more about the world, and find some answers to your own questions, such as where everyone else is. When I stopped to finally go to bed I found myself wanting to return in the morning to see where this intrigue lead me, always a good sign in a new book. The focus on this single family makes you wonder where everyone else can be. However these questions are answered further into the book and you soon realise, once you have a greater understanding of how the world operates, just how complex yet simplistic is actually is.
Once you see that this afterlife is filled with people from everywhere and every time, it is interesting to see how they live their lives. We are told that sleep in unnecessary, though people still enjoy it, but whether food and drink is required is unclear. There seems to be a lot of conversations involving and revolving around food which sparked my query, but there are multiple other unnecessary things that people did as well. Humans, I think, like having structure. In a world where you can be whenever and have such freedom everyone still manages to fall into the same systems they know.
There is a society of sorts in this story, no matter how surreal or fantastical, and people relive and do what they enjoyed in life. People make things and they work, whether they need to or not. People teach, people create, and there are markets and festivals where money is exchange more as recognition of a job well done for the creation than anything else. People buy chairs from a craftsman when they could conjure one themselves.
In that sense there is a lot to make you forget it is anything like death. Is this the point? Again we come back to The Lovely Bones idea, “heaven” was what you made it, places are created and shared and remembered because of what people did and how they lived. The entire world is made up of the memories of the humans who live within the world. In that sense it is rather philosophical, at the very least poetic or something.
Wyle does have a very poetic way of writing, some of her descriptions are really well written, and even the seemingly non-important details are not neglected. Her vocabulary is also very advanced, I found that I had discovered three new words by the end of the book: contrapuntal, sartorial, and atavistic; all of which I had never heard before and all of which are fantastic words. There is a great quote in there about reading as well: “[Reading] let you climb inside of people – even though they were made up people – and end up understanding humans, in general, a little better.” I think this is yet another great understanding of the power of reading. Another one of my favourite lines was “Kindly allow me the prejudices of my time”, for some reason I thought that was a very eloquent line; it really stood out to me.
The ideal Wyle has created is highly alluring. If only there was a realm, in life or death where you could change, relive, feel, think, and be in any age you wished. Young and playful, old and wise, it is an interesting concept, especially the ability to relive old memories with exact detail whenever you pleased, emotions included and everything. Though if anything it should make you appreciate the fact you can do most of those things now, instead of spending you time wishing and waiting for it to be possible later on. Not to get swept up in the promise of an ideal and instead live while you have the chance.
Through Eleanor’s narrative we realise that things may not be as simple as it first appeared. Just when we think we finally have figured out the world we are given new information that is mysterious, and being mysterious to the characters themselves makes it more intriguing. Initially we see alternating views between members of the family but as the story progresses it is clear Eleanor becomes the driving force in the story. This was not a bad thing, while the story was still being introduced we get a lot about the other characters and their histories, and despite the focus being around Eleanor’s story a lot more, we still learn about the other characters, they are not forgotten.
Overall it was a good read, it was different and imaginative. Wyle manages to capture family dynamics rather well and the relationships between family members whether it is husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, or the wisdom of a great grandmother to a child. Despite the nature of the topic it is not a complicated read, though there are a few minor adult themes. Whilst reading I did find a few spelling and name errors but I have since been informed by the author that these issues where in fact not mistakes, but rather deliberate conscious actions; either way they do not distract from the story. There are no jarring sentences and the detail and description of the locations are more than enough to compensate minor mistakes. And on a side note, there is a discussion about whether the Hanging Gardens ever existed; by chance I read an article that concluded there is strong evidence that they never did. So there you go.
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
on Feb. 22, 2013 :
I really enjoyed this, overall. Wyle's writing style is very clean. It's descriptive and evocative, but not florid.
There were a few spots where I think I would have connected with the characters more if she had toned down the presentation of her afterlife. The fluidity of appearances/settings sometimes made it a bit harder to bond with the reality of the interactions. That same mechanism, though, showed off the beauty of Wyle's writing, and lent an interesting edge to what could have been a saccharine story of redemption.
The story was the weakest part of this, to me. It felt like she couldn't decide which direction to take it in, so some aspects of the core conflict, particularly in the last act, did not feel organic. It felt a bit too narrow to be effective as a mystery novel, but not quite connected enough to be a gripping romance. Maybe I just wished it would have been darker. I think there was some real potential for supernatural suspense and conflict in the last act, that was never quite capitalized on, and would have created more tension prior to her ending.
Wyle's strength is in her scene-building. Her locations are absolutely stunningly executed. I would love to see her build the nuance of her dialogue a bit more, to provide that same attention to detail to the characters individual voices. Despite a few flaws though, this is a very well written novel, and sure to resonate with readers who like just a little supernatural tension, and stories of destined happy endings.
Note: I received my copy for review purposes.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Jan. 02, 2013 :
Wander Home was a wonderful and original novel written by Karen A. Wyle. This book was written in the perspectives of the main characters. This has helped us keep up with the events of the book as they went along and has also provided us a way to connect with each character. One of my favorites would have to be Cassidy.
Although the book started off in a way that was a little confusing, the author has managed to answer all the questions as the book progresses. In this book, the characters are in an after-life in which they may be any age they desire and can recollect or live out past memories. Now this, I wish would happen cause that's pretty cool - gettig to be as young or old as you want at any given time and being able to revisit your greatest moments.
With that said, Eleanor and her family can't enjoy this life unless they figure out all the mysteries going about like the dreams she has and the figures she dreams about when they appear in the after-life. And what about the mysterious young man who feels so familiar and that she ends up dreaming about? What does he want with her? And why on Earth does he says that he needs to tell her things about her past life?
Wander Home has a few surprises here and there, unfortunately I predicted the most important one, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it! I hope to see more books from the author!
(reviewed 4 days after purchase)
Danielle Tara Evans
on Dec. 28, 2012 :
This is a story that takes place solely in the afterlife aside from the memories that were made while the characters were still alive. It is depicted as a place where you can be any age you want at any given moment, you can revisit places you once loved, you can relive memories and share them with others, and you can even eat a delicious meal and then simply wave the dishes away... What an amazing place, a great vision for what the afterlife could be. If it really is like this, then I wouldn't be so afraid of death!
On top of the fascinating concept of the afterlife, it is also about a troubled family who is finally able to reconcile. It centers around Eleanor, who abandoned her daughter and left her with her family--her parents and grandmother. Sadly enough, the family died in a car accident before she was able to make her way back home to them. She really did love her family, but she was lost and confused, unable to live a normal life. When she enters the afterlife at a young age, she tries to make things right and to find out why she made the decision she did. When she finally solves that mystery, you are led into almost a whole other story. Her background was more complex and involved than I would have guessed. It was definitely unexpected. I thought I wouldn't like Eleanor because she left her child, and I still don't agree with what she did, but it was somewhat understandable.
This incredibly well-written book will quickly pull you in, and you won't want to put it down. It reads like artful, literary fiction without being dull, boring, or difficult to follow. I loved this book for its originality and for its story about a broken family who has the chance to become whole again--in another life.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Dec. 26, 2012 :
I was actually asked to Beta-Read this book and give my honest opinion on it. The book plot wasn't 100% finalized and indeed it has been tweaked since the first version I read. The book also had no title or cover. The cover above may yet be changed or tweaked.
I like this cover as it could represent either the three main females in the book, and also three of the main "ages" visited in the book.
The blurb is great it gives you enough information to interest you further yet leaves out the things I feel are important for you to discover in the book for yourselves.
The book begins with Cassie, and I admit I was a little confused as to who she was and what was happening, but, as you read further all becomes clear and it makes you appreciate the beginning and how it was written. The book flows really well and keeps your interest throughout. Of course there are always characters you prefer to others, in this book I found I liked most characters. there was only Cassie's grand dad that I disliked a little and maybe that was as he was quite a small character within the whole story. I also admit to disliking Eleanor to begin with. Eleanor initially seems a selfish kind of person who cares only for herself giving no thought as to how her actions affect those around her. The character of Eleanor led me to believe that Cassie was viewed as a "burden" to her in her life. Then as the story develops you learn more about the character of Eleanor, and there are some twists and turns in the plot that explain that Eleanor to the reader so you can understand her more.
The book deals with some complex issues that people have varying opinion on such as the afterlife, re-incarnation, as well as simpler and more widely and freely discussed concepts like fate and destiny. That there is a bigger plan for us all, that our lives are mapped out even before we are born.
I loved Karen's version of how we "live on" after death and the fact that we reunite with our loved ones that have passed before us as well as seeing those that pass after us once again too.
The book really reminded me of an old film I watched as a child. Originally a Russian Film dubbed into English, starring a very young Patsy Kensit. It was about two young children who are tasked with finding and bringing back an elusive bluebird. To find this bluebird they visit many strange places and meet many people such as "Old Father Time" They see a place where babies are collected and sent down to earth/life to their parents. they also see the "afterlife" where your loved ones go when they pass. It was depicted as a beautiful cottage and garden that your loved ones "live2 in and they some how "sense" when you think of them and feel happy you are thinking of them. The film left me feeling really contented and really calm and happy. That is the same strong feeling and emotions you feel upon reading this book.
Karen writes it so well, I hope she doesn't take offense to the following analogy but you feel like you are slipping on a "comfy cardigan" when you fall into the plot and story of this novel.
So did I enjoy the book? Yes *sigh* (that's just how contented you feel upon reading it) Would I read more, if this book turns out to be part of a series? Yes. Would I read more by Karen A. Wyle? I already intend to! Would I recommend? Yes and I have.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Dec. 19, 2012 :
First of all I have to give this story its props for being original. I take place in the afterlife where a person can relive their memories. Other than What Dream May Come, I haven’t seen anything like this. Now, that being said, I also want to state that this book wasn't what I usually read. Yes, there was a large paranormal element and spirituality, but I prefer my books with more action.
However, I think many people would love this book. It is a heartwarming tale about reuniting with family and finding oneself. The story focuses on Eleanor and her need to wander, even in the afterlife. I love how even after death she is trying to find herself. All of the characters are well portrayed. Each has their own personal ghosts to deal with.
Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone who like literary with a touch of paranormal.
(reviewed 12 days after purchase)
on Nov. 16, 2012 :
I enjoyed this book. The first part was a little difficult but Karen's writing is so clear and engaging that it was easy to continue. It isn't an afterlife I would choose for myself but I can see its appeal. The real fear that Cassie feels about the imminent departure of her mother is a moving factor and one that really seals the book. This is one I would recommend for anyone. Excellent.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on Nov. 09, 2012 :
I like the concept for this book and the story was intriguing. I did however, have a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept and actually getting into the story. Once the reader can get through the changes and the actual world of the afterlife it is easier reading. The characters show growth throughout and are relatable on some level. Overall I did enjoy reading the book though the first part was hard to get through.
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)
on Oct. 14, 2012 :
Wander Home is set in an afterlife. The story centers on Eleanor and her family: her daughter Cassandra, grand-mother Amanda, her parents Sarah and Jack. All her life, Eleanor has been restless, looking for something or someone she can’t find. She desperately wanted a child but even Cassandra wasn’t enough to satisfy Eleanor’s wander lust. Essentially, she abandoned Cassie to her parents and grandparents to raise. Also, Eleanor has never been able to find a man for herself. She was able to find a man for a while but eventually she would leave him. Unfortunately, Cassie’s life was spent waiting for her mother to return. She never did.
Then, Cassie, Sarah, Jack, and Amanda died in a car accident and Eleanor was even more miserable than before. A few month later, Eleanor died of a heart attack. Her family has been waiting in the afterlife to welcome her. But things aren’t easy, not for Eleanor and not for Cassie.
At the start of the book, Amanda meets Eleanor and shows her around in the afterlife. Eleanor has to accept what has happened to her but she’s anxious about meeting her parents and daughter.
The afterlife is very different from any religious descriptions, at least as far as I know. The people can age themselves how ever they want, even to an age they didn’t reach when they were alive. Cassie died when she was just six years old, but here she can age herself to teenager, to her thirties, and older. When people change their ages, their emotional and intellectual maturity changes, too. So, when Cassie is afraid that her mother is going to leave her again, she changes herself back to a frightened four year old. The people can also visit their own memories or other people’s memories. Since there are people from the whole of human history in this afterlife, there are a lot of places and times to visit. Jack and Sarah traveled all over the world and I loved to visit all of the places with them. The descriptions were vivid.
The people also experience new things and grow here; they aren’t stuck to anything they did or didn’t do while they were alive. For the most part, anyway.
Wyle writes this story without once referring to spirits or souls. Religion is touched on only near the end. The story is centered on Eleanor trying to come to terms with the consequences of her actions. The people around her are very supportive and forgiving; they are trying to help her heal. Cassie has already made friends with other people and has a life of her own, yet of course she’s also trying to understand her mother. There’s a twist in the story, too. Unfortunately, I saw that one coming.
The writing is very clear even though with a setting like this, it would have been easy to lose the reader. I was never lost about which character’s memories I was reading or about whose point-of-view it was experienced from. The writing is just lovely.
The author kindly gave me a review copy.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Oct. 13, 2012 :
**I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Strange. That's the only word I can give it. This was a very strange, but somehow believable fictional take on the afterlife. Whenever I read, I try to connect with the book on some level. In this case, I tried to put my deceased relatives in this fictional afterlife world. A few times it would work, other times it wouldn't. I even tried to explain the book to a co-worker and I just couldn't. It's just a wierd book.
Wierd and strange is not always bad, but in this case, it didn't let me really enjoy the book. There was one thread in it that kept pulling at me so that I did eventually finish the book, but it wasn't a really enjoyable read. I keep vascillating between 2 1/2 stars or 3. Just for the one part that kept me coming back, I'll give it three stars.
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)
on Oct. 04, 2012 :
Karen Wyle's latest, Wander Home, is not only a lovely tale about the after-life and after-world, but also a lovely vision of what I hope that life/world looks like.
This is the story of an after-life in which we are whatever age we want to be, surrounded by whatever people we want around us. It is a story about how death, even untimely death, doesn’t have to be the end of everything. It is a story about the consequences of the choices we make, and the difficulty even we can have in understanding – and living with – the reach of those consequences. Wyle’s isn’t the first vision of the afterlife that addresses these concepts (Richard Matheson’s What Dreams May Come springs to mind), but it is one of the loveliest.
Eleanor’s life is tragic and heart-breaking; not only for the things she lost, but for the things she spent so long trying to find. There is a nice twist hidden in the layers of family drama, redemption, and the quest for understanding, and it’s handled deftly and with a unique spin that keeps it from feeling in any respect derivative, even if it’s not a brand-new construct. (Sorry that is so obtuse, but I don’t want to give spoilers!) Wyle has a lovely way with language, weaving characters and setting together into a seamless tapestry of an after-life that I personally hope bears more than a passing resemblance to what’s really out there.
I started the book in the morning, on a sick day. I read through until it was finished, that evening. Even with my cold medicine-addled brain and eyes I could barely keep open, I couldn’t put it down. Don’t miss this one. It’s a beautiful story, well-written and smoothly paced with characters you can’t help but fall in love with (especially Cassidy and Great Grandma Amanda). Thanks for another great novel Karen – I can’t wait for the next one!
(reviewed the day of purchase)