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South of the Buttonwood Tree    by Heather Webber order for
South of the Buttonwood Tree
by Heather Webber
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2020 (2020)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This time of crisis is the perfect time to escape into a novel of feel-good magical realism. Heather Webber, author of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe, has done it again with South of the Buttonwood Tree. She has delivered a heartwarming read that steadily lifts the spirits.

Blue Bishop finds lost things - wallets, pets ... a wandering elder. She does her best to help anyone in need, but keeps her distance, always aware of her family's bad reputation. It has overshadowed her life. She has few friends, though elderly Moe and Marlo (owners of The Rabbit Hole bookshop, her 'happy place') helped raise her. Unfortunately, Moe is losing ground to dementia, and there will soon be a new owner at The Rabbit Hole.

Blue is guardian to her sister Persy, who's just finished her freshman year at college. Blue hopes to adopt a child. Townsfolk go to the Buttonwood Tree when they're seeking answers. Blue and Marlo are walking near it when they hear a crying baby, only a few days old. A Buttonwood Tree button says 'Give the baby to Blue Bishop'. Blue calls the child Flora.

Mayor's daughter Sarah Grace is a house whisperer who loves to renovate fixer-uppers. Her mother's family have a longstanding grudge against the Bishops. Mama wants perfection for her daughter, but Sarah Grace has kept many secrets, starting with the fact that she's unhappy in her marriage. Sarah Grace and Blue become friends, despite their family history. Mama leads a town challenge of Blue's right to the infant and the case goes to court.

Though Blue becomes very anxious about the case, her help has not gone unnoticed over the years and she has more friends in her community than she ever realized, leading to a very satisfying conclusion to this charming story.

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