Carmichael, Clay. Wild Things.
Front Street Books (see Boyd's Mill Press) 2009 240p 18.95
Stubborn, self-reliant, eleven-year-old Zoe, recently orphaned, moves to the country to live with her prickly half-uncle, a famous doctor, and sculptor, and together they learn about trust and the strength of family. Clay Carmichael has hit the mark in this novel about an orphaned eleven year-old girl who is too precocious, too independent, and too tough for her own good. Zoe Royster needed to develop these personality traits as a defense mechanism to protect her feelings from her negligent mother; consequently, she trusts no one but herself. Her father was never a presence in her life and when her mother dies, Zoe is claimed by an uncle she didn't know she had. Her uncle is Dr. Henry Royce, who left a promising medical career to pursue an even more successful career as a metal sculptor. The title refers to many wild things besides Zoe: the feral cat that contributes to the story by providing background information and foreshadowing, the sculptures that Henry creates, the albino deer and his companion. From the first page Zoe commands the attention of the readers, who want to know more about her unconventional past. She is a multidimensional character who surprises and enchants. Carmichael has taken care to provide Zoe with equally well rounded characters. Zoe's narrative provides the structure of the story, with perfect pacing and plot development. The dialogue is a joy, particularly the first few chapters of conversation between Zoe and Henry, where the reader begins to wonder how this relationship between the two of them will turn out. It turns out just fine, despite the sadness, and the tragedies that they encounter. Readers can leave Zoe knowing that she finds the love that she deserves. RZ