Judith D Collins
By: Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: Lake Union
Publication Date: 01/01/2019
My Rating: 5 Stars Author Q&A Jan 1 A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone…and collapses. Suzanne Blakemore hurtles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, away from her overscheduled and completely normal life, and encounters the girl. As Suzanne rushes her to the hospital, she never imagines how the encounter will change her—a change she both fears and desperately needs. Suzanne has the perfect house, a successful husband, and a thriving family. But beneath the veneer of an ideal life, her daughter is rebelling, her son is withdrawing, her husband is oblivious to it all, and Suzanne is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. After her discovery of the ethereal sixteen-year-old who has never experienced civilization, Suzanne is compelled to invite Iris into her family’s life and all its apparent privileges.
But Iris has an independence, a love of solitude, and a discomfort with materialism that contrasts with everything the Blakemores stand for—qualities that awaken in Suzanne first a fascination, then a longing. Now Suzanne can’t help but wonder: Is she destined to save Iris, or is Iris the one who will save her?
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Look for my Q&A Elevator Ride with Author, Sonja Yoerg coming Jan 1, 2019. An exclusive “behind the scenes” look behind TRUE PLACES, and some fun facts about the author and her latest book. Plus learn what is coming next!
Sonja Yoerg returns following All The Best People (2017) with her best yet! TRUE PLACES is moving and beautifully written story with lyrical prose and tons of heart and soul—discovering our true place in life.
For every woman who feels overwhelmed, unappreciated, and has lost a little of herself along the way from marriage, family, motherhood, to her career. A road to self-discovery. Readers you will adore the unexpected relationship between Suzanne and Iris!
Often it takes a stranger to put us back on the correct path and find our true place.
Set in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains (your stress level drops just looking at the stunning cover). If you have ever been to the Virginia Mountains, it is just as breathtaking.
Readers are introduced to Suzanne and Whit Blackmore, parents of two teens, Brynn and Reid. We also meet Suzanne’s mother Tinsley (self-absorbed and needy). On the outside this looks like a happy family; however, there is much lacking.
Suzanne is a very busy mother and has no time to barely breathe. (we all have been there). She is overwhelmed and needs an escape. One afternoon she takes the Blue Ridge Parkway. She will drive. Clear her head. Escape. She thinks of all the deadlines and things she must do; however, for a moment this will be hers. No cell service, no texts, and no little bar. (Seems like heaven, right)?
Soon she spots a young girl all alone along one of the overlooks, near the wooden railroad tracks, running parallel to the road. The girl looks alone and terrified. All she can say is, “mama.” She only has a backpack with some essential items to survive outdoors. Where is her family?
The young girl looks sick and since Suzanne has no cell phone service, she decides to take the girl to the nearest hospital. The girl goes in and out of consciousness. Suzanne is drawn to this young girl. She makes a life changing decision.
Of course, no one in her family can understand why she becomes involved with this homeless girl. Everyone is questioning her in her own family. A woman already extended. However, this young girl named Iris, may just be what Suzanne need to find her true self and at the same time a guardian angel for her.
Suzanne takes her into their home, when she leaves the hospital. However, how will this family (one that is so different) be able to handle a young girl who lived in the woods, without all the social interaction?
A simple life and one not filled with materialistic things. The dad and the teen daughter are especially materialist. They will have more problems versus Suzanne and Reid, which are more down to earth.
We also flash back to 1995 when Suzanne and Whit met and her own childhood. How do the choices she made years ago get her to the place she is now? She put her own life on hold to care for her husband’s career and her own family.
“Giving too little, giving too much. Subtracting from here, adding there. Caring for your marriage, your children, your parents, your reputation, your future, and if you could manage it, your younger, more idealistic self. This complex calculus was based on theories of love and motherhood, and equations of duty and self-worth. . . She wanted a balanced life but had only guesses, wishes, and fears when what she needed was answers.”
There is a mystery surrounding Iris. What happened to her family? Her dad (disappearance), mother (recently deceased), and little brother Ash (appears to be a mystery). A police investigation. A social worker. Suzanne begins to do more digging on her own.
In the meantime, there is a war going on in their household with the tension of Iris joining their household. Iris and Suzanne seem to have developed a strong bond. Suzanne is drawn to her and her simple way of life. However, people do not want you to lead a simple life. They think this way is strange. Iris is drawn back to woods.
Suzanne must continue to defend herself and Iris. Can Iris survive in this new environment? Can Suzanne continue to survive, living as she has been or is there something new on the horizon which will change all their lives? Being true to one’s self.
I loved TRUE PLACES! Yoerg is in her element from the setting (her own backyard) to the complex family dynamics. Thought-provoking, filled with lush scenery, beautiful botanical imagery, themes, strong metaphors, life lessons, and many takeaways. The relation between nature, animals, and humans. Each can be beautiful and dangerous at the same time.
Character-driven, the author does an outstanding job with the teen language and each character’s distinct voice. Many readers will relate and adore the ending. I enjoyed the relationship with plants, healing, and modern medicine. I survive on an organic plant-based diet and use herbal teas and plants for healing, taking no prescription drugs.
On a side note: There is a project in NC, I consulted with several years ago which strongly reminds me of this story. It offers the setting of a simple life. The property managers told me of the history of the project which is fascinating. Located in the mountains of NC (Flat Rock) —with a combination of vacation rentals, condos, old mill, B&B, and small village little town; old farm houses, tree swings, porches, lake, mill surrounded by farm animals, and organic gardens, with fresh eggs delivered to your door. It allows your children or grandchildren to get the feel of farm simple living. I was there one week and it snowed. It was like a Hallmark movie scene!
TRUE PLACES is a mix of Delia Owens Where the Crawdads Sing, Kristin Hannah The Great Alone, works of Jodi Picoult, and Rochelle B. Weinstein’s Somebody’s Daughter with Sonja Yoerg’ s own winning signature style of tackling complex family dynamics.
With the author’s own background to draw from plus her love of nature and gardening, her passion is reflected throughout each page. You will find yourself bookmarking many pages and beautiful phrases.
This reminds me of when I was visiting in NC, dealing with my elderly parents, I took off one afternoon and drove to Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway (I had clients in the area and a good excuses). Even though I did not meet a young lady, it clears your mind and fills you with peace, and a renewed spirit. I also have fond memories as a child and roadside picnics along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Read My Reviews (each has been 5 Stars).
TRUE PLACES (2019)
ALL THE BEST PEOPLE (2017)
THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE (9/2015)
HOUSE BROKEN (1/2015)
Love the quote:
“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
“‘Sometimes,’ Sonja Yoerg writes, ‘it takes a stranger to show you what should be obvious, how far you’ve drifted from who you want to be, from what’s right for you.’ In this engrossing and provocative novel, we meet Suzanne—a woman who (like many of us) asks herself: How did I end up living this life? Into Suzanne’s methodical suburban existence comes Iris: sixteen years old, formerly feral, and grappling to understand the excess of modern-day society. As Suzanne and Iris travel together—both literally and figuratively—their journey reveals not only the true places that reshape their own lives, but also those of the loved ones who speak to their hearts.”
—Cynthia Swanson, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Forest and The Bookseller
“Sonja Yoerg is a master story spinner who builds a tale of escalating intrigue while at the same time exploring emotional depths few authors are able to reach. In her latest, True Places, she keeps the reader asking, ‘What would I do?’ which is a sure sign of a knock-out novel. When she twists the plot again and again, she manages to help us escape all of our own constraints to fully embrace the journey. Beautiful, unique, suspenseful, and full of wonder, True Places is a unique gem of a novel that will leave readers with a full heart and a recharged mind. Bravo!”
—Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials
“With luminous prose and a story that speaks straight to the heart, Sonja Yoerg has crafted another stunning novel. True Places is a beautiful reminder that though we may busy ourselves seeking what we want, what we need has an uncanny way of finding us.”
—Camille Pagán, bestselling author of Life and Other Near-Death Experiences
“True Places is a true adherent to Sonja Yoerg’s specialty—smartly written family dramas with a twist. In this case, the twist is the blending of a typical suburban family with an anything-but-typical parentless child whose presence creates considerable tension, causing each member of the family to reconsider where they fit in, and what they are, and are not, willing to give to maintain household harmony.”
—Julie Lawson Timmer, author of Five Days Left, Untethered, and Mrs. Saint and the Defectives
“One of Sonja Yoerg’s great strengths as a novelist is her ability to portray women in all their complexity. Suzanne Blakemore is a perfect housewife and mother who has denied herself her own identity for so long that it seems she has forgotten to even look for it. When she picks up a child, dirty, starving, and abandoned, on the side of the highway, and eventually convinces her husband to take her in, it seems like yet another thing to take up space on Suzanne’s relentless to-do list. But it is in opening her heart to Iris that Suzanne begins to find a piece of herself—and the strength to realize that her own needs matter too. Gripping, emotional, and deeply authentic, True Places will have you flipping pages long into the night. This is Yoerg’s most compelling, honest novel yet.”
—Kristy Woodson Harvey, national bestselling author of The Secret to Southern Charm
“In True Places, Sonja Yoerg has crafted a story both tender and triumphant. As Iris and Suzanne begin their journey toward healing and hope, readers will be swept along in the gorgeous narrative and fall in love with the artfully drawn characters plucked from real life. This beautifully told, heartwarming tale will find a home in the heart of anyone who is familiar with love and loss—and the promise that even when it seems impossible, life will brim with joy again.”
—Nicole Baart, author of Little Broken Things and You Were Always Mine
“Sonja Yoerg has a talent for creating richly drawn, realistic characters, and the Blakemores at the center of this novel are no exception. The family’s tensions are familiar and universal…a father and son at odds, a distant daughter, and a mother who has repressed her own ambitions in service to the family. I felt as if I were an extended part of their household, which made it all the more compelling when Iris, an orphan raised in the woods, stumbled into their lives and shook things up. Yoerg is a brilliant observer of nature, both in the human sense and as applied to the outdoors. Her prose pays loving attention to the details and science of the natural world. Readers will enjoy every moment of getting lost in the pages of True Places, wandering the paths and rural roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains along with the novel’s relatable characters. A beautiful book, all around.”
—Susan Gloss, USA Today bestselling author of Vintage and The Curiosities
Q&A With the Author
About the Author
Photo by Tamara Hattersly Photograhy
Sonja Yoerg grew up in Stowe, Vermont, where she financed her college education by waitressing at the Trapp Family Lodge. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, studied learning in blue jays, kangaroo rats and spotted hyenas, and published a non-fiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox (Bloomsbury USA, 2001).
Sonja has since published three novels, HOUSE BROKEN, MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE and ALL THE BEST PEOPLE. Her fourth, TRUE PLACES, will be released in 1 January 2019. She is a member of Tall Poppy Writers.
Sonja lives with her husband near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where she tends an ever-expanding vegetable garden. Read More