In her newest book, Still Life in Shadows, Alice J. Wisler tells an unusual story. Using fiction skillfully, Wisler weaves an interesting plot, however, at the same time, she unveils two generally unrelated, minority communities to her readers.
The first of these is the world of the autistic and their families.
Kiki, a highly functioning, young autistic girl constantly strains against the rules. She is opinionated, smart and talks incessantly. Often she feels ostracized by her peers, so she spends most of her free time pedaling all over town on her bicycle. Her best friend is a straggly cat puppet that her mother gave her. That was before her mom was deemed incompetent to care for Kiki and her older sister, Mari.
The second minority community Wisler discusses is the Amish. Gideon, also known as the, “get away savior,” fled from his harsh father and the unrealistic constraints of his Amish community in Pennsylvania. That was almost 17 years ago.
Gideon established a quiet life in Twin Branches, North Carolina. His routine consisted of walking to work at the auto shop, lunch at Another Cup tea room, where he flirted with the owner, Mari, and fixing his own simple dinner at home. Occasionally, this peace was interrupted by a desperate phone call, someone from his own Amish past, seeking Gideon’s help to escape the crushing legalism.
One day, out of the blue, Moriah, Gideon’s youngest brother whom he hasn’t seen since leaving home, shows up in town. He too fled their father and was looking to make his own way. Unfortunately, Moriah falls into the wrong crowd, with deadly consequences.
Wisler creatively combines the genres of romance and mystery. At the same time, she evokes compassion for the marginalized, awareness for the plight of the autistic and an understanding of life in Amish communities.
I found, Still Life in Shadows, to be a little eclectic, perhaps reaching to pull too many broad motifs into one book. However, I admire her effort and she does it well. A few of the prose and metaphors are awkward, but they do not detract from the narrative.
Still Life in Shadows, is compelling to the very end. A good fictional read with the added benefit of exploring less-common themes.