Reviewed by Akram Herrak
A heartwarming story of the contrast between ambitious dreaming and comforting stability
What happens when dreams are buried for too long? Can love and family compensate for our deepest desires? And is it ever too late to start chasing what we really want? These are questions that Karin M. Gertsch strives to answer in this warm tale of family, love, loss, and ambition—a story of a family whose little imperfections make them all the more endearing. Five Wishes is a beautiful brew that would make for a great lazy Sunday afternoon read.
The story revolves around an old couple in the small town of Hamlet in New England. Bertie owns a shoe repair shop (Peach of a Sole), where he has been working for decades. He is known and loved by the people of this small town. At home is his wife Tilli. She loves to spend her days working on her garden. Close to them live their two daughters, often visiting to resurrect that feeling of home that they all miss so much.
One day, Tilli suggests the idea of a trip to her family and to her husband who has a mortal fear of heights, and that trip is soon to be revealed one of Tilli’s five wishes, which include some secrets her family never knew of.
Five Wishes proves to be an immensely enjoyable read. Its setting is cozy and welcoming, and through author Karin M. Gertsch’s vivid descriptions, it comes to life and it feels as hospitable for the reader as it is for its cast. It is rich with small details, painting a serene image of life in a small town.
This embracement of the setting allows the characters to be infinitely more interesting, as they do not have to fight anything for the reader’s attention. Even the mundane parts of their daily lives gain a fascinating quality as part of the mechanism of the life of a small town. This effect intensifies as more is revealed about the small family.
Perhaps the only complaint I have about Five Wishes is that the overtones are always so positive: the story always finds a way to turn a sad event into a lesson or an epiphany. While I do realize that this contributes to the warmth of the story–which I definitely appreciate!–-often, it feels like it does not allow itself to really explore the sadness, and therefore, the aspirations, of its protagonists.
Overall, Five Wishes is an enjoyable read. This tale of a family is told through their past, their present, their setting, and their travels, and in the span of a few hundred pages. We come to truly know them in this story of love, loss, and learning. It’s a warm read that should not be missed.
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