Laurel's Choices

Fiction - Historical - Personage
416 Pages
Reviewed on 09/02/2018
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Author Biography

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Laurel was a young woman from a middle-class family who followed her beloved father into teaching. When she meets and marries Justin Worth, a professional photographer, her life will change forever. Justin has a sense of adventure and, realizing that photography alone cannot sustain a family, he moves Laurel and his young children to a ramshackle hut in the middle of the Pisgah Forest in the mountains of Western North Carolina to set up a logging team. Set in the early 1920s and flowing through to the war years, Laurel’s Choices by Exie Wilde Henson takes us on a remarkable journey with this incredible family as they endure the hardships and dangers of life in a primitive logging camp, the privations of losses of the Great Depression, and the heartbreak of World War II. All through this, Laurel and Justin attempt to bring their family up with love and respect for each other, and the utmost love and respect for their neighbours, the wonderful, proud, but hard-living mountain people of Western North Carolina. They face all their trials and tribulations with humour, dignity and a profound sense of faith in a power greater than them. Anything the Worths can do to help their fellow man or woman, they will gladly do.

I read a lot and few books have moved me as much as this simple story of familial love and devotion presented to us by Exie Wilde Henson in Laurel’s Choices. I am sure the story, although fictionalized, was a recounting of the author’s own experiences growing up and, as such, it provides a truly wonderful social commentary on that particular region and that particular period of history. The two main characters, Laurel and Justin, were selfless, dedicated and showed compassion and love beyond what anyone could expect, given the difficult circumstances they faced. This was truly one of those books I didn’t want to end and deliberately slowed down as I came to the finale. The writer’s style is so natural, flowing and so easy to read. Her knowledge of the area and the social history is extensive and lent an absolute realism to the story. I love historical novels, but most importantly I love historical novels with a purpose and a message for us in today’s world. This book truly does that with its simple, yet profound comments on what constitutes a “life well lived.” I can’t recommend this story highly enough – it’s an absolute winner.

Ruffina Oserio

Laurel’s Choices by Exie Wilde Henson is an interesting historical novel with great characters. Laurel Worth is an accomplished woman — a great public speaker, a well-trained nurse, and a conscientious teacher. When she accepts the decision to follow her photographer husband, Justin, a decision he made without consulting her, she isn’t quite sure what to expect. Justin accepts a job supervising a logging crew in the dangerous and remote mountains of western North Carolina, exposing his wife and two kids to an environment fraught with danger. They will have to deal with a lot in this harsh environment — snake bites, a near-drowning experience, the kidnapping of Justin, and a lot more. What is most disheartening to Laurel is that Justin seems to be enjoying every bit of the dangerous experience. After all they go through, will the marriage ever be the same again?

Exie Wilde Henson’s novel is a great read and the author pays a lot of attention to details when it comes to descriptions, exploring worlds that any reader will be excited to step into. This detail comes out clearly in the elements of the setting — the forests, the woodlands, the vegetation, rivers — and the traits of the characters, including the peculiar things about them and the emotions that make them really human. Laurel’s Choices features compelling characters and it is interesting how the author uses Justin’s impulsiveness and love for adventure to create a conflict that is emotionally deep and that moves the plot forward. The prose is gorgeous, the voice unique and strong, but what I appreciated most is the author’s gift for storytelling.

Divine Zape

Laurel’s Choices by Exie Wilde Henson is a novel with powerful historical underpinnings and sophisticated characters. Laurel Worth is an enigmatic character, a gifted public speaker, a well-trained nurse, and a devoted educator. She is beautiful and married to Justin, a professional photographer who, out of a deep sense of adventure, accepts a job to supervise a crew of loggers in the secluded mountains in North Carolina. Bringing Laurel and their two kids with isn’t the best thing for Laurel. Occupying a two-room shack in the logging camp, they will face many challenges, including snake bites, the rescue of a child from a river, a panther attack, and the kidnap of her husband. The strange thing is that all these incidents are fun for Justin. But the adversity in this camp is taking a negative toll on Laurel and is about to determine the future of their marriage.

Exie Wilde Henson is a good storyteller and I loved the beautiful prose. The author writes like someone who knows the geography that is beautifully captured in the setting, paying a lot of attention to detail and creating an imagery that is exciting. The author integrates elements of adventure and history into the narrative. The prose is stellar and I loved how the internal conflict is handled, with the emotions, especially those of the protagonist, explored with unusual clarity. Laurel’s Choices is engaging, a story with characters that are real and likeable, intensely emotional, and deftly plotted. This author has what it takes to grab the attention of readers and keep them reading nonstop.