Disclaimer: Please note I was approached by the author who sent me a PDF version of this book in exchange for my honest review.
TW/CW: Mentions of physical and sexual abuse.
Linda C. Wisniewski’s novel, Where the Stork Flies was a gripping read, through and through. So much so that I finished it in two days, as I couldn’t help wondering where the story was going. I was a little sceptical about the story, as it involves time travel and a small degree of supernatural occurrences, which aren’t usually my first choice of plot elements. However, this is one of the best perks of running Coffee Time Reviews — I get to discover so many books out of my comfort zone that I end up enjoying if I leave my prejudice aside and go in with an open mind.
Where the Stork Flies tells the story of Kat, a 50-year-old Polish-American librarian whose life has taken an awful turn after her husband and daughter leave her. In order to help her find her strength to understand and draw the people she loves most closer, two unexpected characters come to help. One of them is a Polish peasant who appears out of thin air straight from 1825, and the other one is a young, glamorous translator, with a very intricate story and mission.
Before you dive in, though, be warned there are some disturbing physical and sexual abuse scenes. These scenes do contribute to the unfolding of the story, however, as Kat gets to discover where her new Polish friend, Regina, truly comes from and how life is like for peasant women in the early 19th century.
The book overall was thoroughly enjoyable, setting the two timeframes in parallel realities and painting a historical context to Regina’s character. I loved how family dynamics and the idea of genealogy were handled, in the sense that the bond between Kat and Regina and her family shone through in the most subtle ways. The topic of female strength through history was my favourite aspect of the book, as it realistically shows how women are united through hardship, no matter when or where they have lived, and they have a duty to one another not to stand by, but take action to protect their friends.
As one review on Goodreads accurately puts it: “This novel gave me a new awareness of the limitations of social progress over the centuries, as well as a way to continue the good fight. Reading it, I realized how that progress or lack of it has made me who I am and made my life possible.” And I agree entirely with this viewpoint.
I liked Regina’s character and thought there was a lot to learn from her: from her feminist wisdom, although oppressed by the times she was living in, it still existed and showed how she found ways around the hostility towards women, to her dedication to family life, and her unbreakable faith and patience. However, I must say the protagonist, Kat, was not as likable, and at times I could tell that was the author’s intention. Given Kat’s sad background and lacking upbringing, a lot of her behaviours are justified, but that realisation alone wasn’t enough to make me like her as much.
I also found the Polish snippets of dialogue a little confusing. Some of them are explained or translated straight after, but others aren’t, and especially in the beginning, it can feel exhausting to try to guess what the characters are saying.
That aside, the book is very gripping, easy to follow, and a great account of finding hope, strength, and the will to love again when everything seems lost, so I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone enjoying family stories with a supernatural twist.
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