One of our recommended books is The Wilderwomen by Ruth Emmie Lang


Ohioana Book Award finalist Ruth Emmie Lang returns with a new cast of ordinary characters with extraordinary abilities in The Wilderwomen.

Five years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared. The older of her two daughters, Zadie, should have seen it coming, because she can literally see things coming. But not even her psychic abilities were able to prevent their mother from vanishing one morning.

Zadie’s estranged younger sister, Finn, can’t see into the future, but she has an uncannily good memory, so good that she remembers not only her own memories, but the echoes of memories other people have left behind.

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Ohioana Book Award finalist Ruth Emmie Lang returns with a new cast of ordinary characters with extraordinary abilities in The Wilderwomen.

Five years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared. The older of her two daughters, Zadie, should have seen it coming, because she can literally see things coming. But not even her psychic abilities were able to prevent their mother from vanishing one morning.

Zadie’s estranged younger sister, Finn, can’t see into the future, but she has an uncannily good memory, so good that she remembers not only her own memories, but the echoes of memories other people have left behind. On the afternoon of her graduation party, Finn is seized by an “echo” more powerful than anything she’s experienced before: a woman singing a song she recognizes, a song about a bird…

When Finn wakes up alone in an aviary with no idea of how she got there, she realizes who the memory belongs to: Nora.

Now, it’s up to Finn to convince her sister that not only is their mom still out there, but that she wants to be found. Against Zadie’s better judgement, she and Finn hit the highway, using Finn’s echoes to retrace Nora’s footsteps and uncover the answer to the question that has been haunting them for years: Why did she leave?

But the more time Finn spends in their mother’s past, the harder it is for her to return to the present, to return to herself. As Zadie feels her sister start to slip away, she will have to decide what lengths she is willing to go to find their mother, knowing that if she chooses wrong, she could lose them both for good.

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  • St. Martin's Press
  • Hardcover
  • November 2022
  • 336 Pages
  • 9781250246912

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About Ruth Emmie Lang

Ruth Emmie Lang is the author of The WilderwomenRuth Emmie Lang was born in Glasgow, Scotland and has the red hair to prove it. When she was four years old, she immigrated to Ohio where she has lived ever since. She has since lost her Scottish accent, but still has the hair. Ruth lives with her husband and son on two wooded acres in the Cleveland area. Her first novel, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award.

Author Website


“Exquisitely drawn characters imbue Lang’s unconventional plot with verisimilitude and heart, inspiring readers to ponder whether the world is stranger and more beautiful than it appears. Effervescent, ethereal, and suffused with wonder.” — Kirkus (starred review)

“Lang’s melancholy, atmospheric writing sets the perfect tone as the Wilder sisters unravel the mystery. The result is a cozy supernatural outing perfect for an autumn night.” Publisher’s Weekly

“Lang focuses the main characters’ journey toward finding and cherishing family and friendship under challenging circumstances.” Library Journal

“Ruth Emmie Lang’s sophomore novel is an exquisitely woven story of sisterhood and the subtleties of magic. Lang has done it again, and crafted a truly unforgettable book!” —Shea Ernshaw, New York Times bestselling author of A History of Wild Places

“Powerful, fascinating and utterly unique,The Wilderwomen is an unforgettable journey of family bonds, hope and resilience!” —Kim Michele Richardson, New York Times bestselling author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

“A psychedelic dream of a story! In The Wilderwomen Ruth Emmie Lang spins a complex tale of three women whose gifts set them apart from the world and each other. Their struggle to reconnect and solve the mystery of their mother’s disappearance makes for a wild ride. With sparky dialogue and terrific storytelling, Ruth Emmie Lang will have you hooked!” —Paula Brackston, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter

“The world needs more stories about sisters on road trips, and The Wilderwomen is here to set us on the right path. Ruth Emmie Lang uses a touch of the fantastic to propel a family mystery and a missing person case, but mostly she gives us beautiful landscapes, two very different sisters coming of age, and a compelling cast of characters they meet along their wild way.” —Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of One Two Three

Discussion Questions

1. If you had the ability to predict the future, would you embrace it or run away from it as Zadie did? Explain your reasoning.

2. Zadie accuses Nora of being a bad mother. Do you believe Nora was a good or bad parent? Should she have kept her struggles a secret from her children?

3. Do you think Zadie’s bitterness toward her mom in the beginning of the novel is justified? Would you have interpreted Nora’s actions differently?

4. To retrace her mom’s footsteps, Finn had to live out Nora’s memories. Do you think this breach of privacy was ethical given the circumstances? If not, are there any circumstances in which using an echo could be considered ethical?

5. Did you believe the Van Houten girls when they said they communicated with their mother? If you were Myron, how would you have talked to them about it?

6. After the incident on the cliff, Joel disagrees with Zadie’s decision to continue the search for Nora. Who do you think made the right call and why?

7. How did you feel about Finn’s ultimate adoption decision?

8. Parenthood means something different to each of the characters in the book. Which parent (Nora, Kathy, Steve, Myron, or Zadie) did you find yourself relating to the most? Why?




Zadie Wilder owned six sweaters, four pairs of leggings, and one extra-large beach towel. The reason she knew she had exactly six sweaters, four pairs of leggings, and one extra-large beach towel was that she was attempting to cram all of them inside an already bursting suitcase. She had to work fast. Her ex, Dustin, would be clocking out in a few minutes, and she hadn’t even packed any of her cassettes yet. Out of all her worldly possessions, her cassette collection was the one thing she couldn’t bear seeing smashed on the pavement below their—okay, his third-story apartment window.

Dustin was never quite able to grasp why she cared so much about them. “They were my mom’s,” Zadie had said.

“Yeah, but didn’t your mom, like, leave you?” Callous, maybe, but not untrue. To this day, Zadie still wondered why Nora hadn’t taken any of her cassettes with her. Her mom’s ’97 RAV4 might have had a hole in the floor and sounded like a go-kart when it accelerated, but at least it had had a working tape deck. The day Zadie got her driver’s license, Nora had tossed her the keys and they drove around town for hours listening to the tapes Nora kept in the glove compartment. That’s how Zadie discovered Blondie, the Indigo Girls, and Prince. When Nora left two years later, she took the car, but Blondie and the rest of her musical idols stayed behind. It’s not like her, Zadie, still in shock, had thought at the time. She never goes anywhere without her music. In a way, it was more surprising than the disappearance itself.

Now it was Zadie’s turn to disappear. Dustin had asked that she “leave no trace” of ever having been in his apartment. As Zadie rinsed a lipstick smudge off one of his glass tumblers, she felt more like she was covering up a crime scene than surrendering the title of Dustin’s part-time live-in girlfriend. Soon she would go back to her own apartment, unpack her things, and decide how sad she really was about the breakup. Right now she didn’t feel much of anything, except maybe a little nauseous.

It’s not like she was totally alone. If she got lonely, she could talk to the Ladybug. According to the various mommy blogs, Zadie’s baby was the size of a sweet pea, but she found the whole food-to-child analogy creepy. It made it sound like her baby was something to be harvested when ripe, then stuffed in a cornucopia on Thanksgiving with some gourds and ears of corn. So instead she decided to measure the size of her child against other living things. At six weeks, her baby was approximately a quarter of an inch long, the size of a ladybug. In two weeks, it would be the size of a honeybee. Eventually it would be big enough that she could start comparing it to cuter animals: a chipmunk, maybe, or a kitten, but for now she’d have to settle for ones with exoskeletons.

“You were kind of his idea, you know.” Zadie addressed her midsection as she placed the clean glass in the dish rack. Dustin had broached the subject of kids a few months earlier during a trip to the animal shelter. As they browsed crates of underexercised dogs, he said, “You know what would be even cooler than a dog?”

Zadie thought he was going to suggest they adopt a snake or an iguana, some gross bachelor-pad animal that would require keeping tubs of crickets in their freezer. She opened her mouth to protest when he blurted, “A kid!”

The next day, in true Dustin fashion, he forgot he had even made the suggestion. Then several months later, in an ironic twist of fate, Zadie found herself pregnant anyway—a fact that she had still not yet shared with anyone, including Dustin. She should have seen it coming, and not just because she had terrible luck, but because she could literally see things coming.

She was seven years old when she first realized there was something different about her. That day she was “helping” her mom in the yard by detonating the piles of leaves that Nora had spent all morning raking. Through the leaves that tumbled in front of her, she saw Clarence, Finn’s father, smiling at her from atop a ladder that was leaning against the side of the house. He pulled a wet bundle of leaves out of the gutter, held them up for her to see, and made a stink face. Zadie took this as a challenge. She reached into one of her mom’s piles, held up her own bundle of leaves, then tossed them into the air like confetti. Clarence tried tossing his leaves, too, but they clumped together and landed on the driveway with a splat. Zadie giggled.

As Clarence turned his attention back to the task at hand, Zadie was struck by an uneasy sensation. To her seven-year-old brain, it was much like the feeling she experienced when she went too high on the swings and her stomach felt like it was floating. It was soon followed by a single scary thought: Clarence is going to fall like the leaves. Confused and frightened, she turned to her mom, who was in the middle of bagging the leaves she’d collected. Before Zadie could utter a word, she heard a crashing sound behind her. She whipped around and saw Clarence on the ground, clutching his left leg. It looked funny, like her dolls’ legs did after she’d turned them around the wrong way.

Then the screaming started. Zadie had never heard a grown man make a noise like that before. It was the scariest thing she had ever heard. Nora rushed over to him as Zadie fled into the house and up the stairs to her bedroom. She hid under the covers and cried until she heard the wail of the ambulance.

It had taken Zadie several days to work up the courage to tell her mom what had happened to her that day. By that time, Clarence was camped out on the couch and using a wire clothes hanger to scratch under his cast. Zadie made sure the door to the living room was closed before she said, “It’s my fault.”

“What’s your fault, hon?” Nora’s tone was gentle, understanding. Zadie artfully dodged her mother’s gaze as she shared the phrase that had entered her head moments before Clarence fell. That was the day she learned what a psychic was and that maybe she was one. It was also the day she decided that a psychic was something she’d rather not be.

Unfortunately for Zadie, she didn’t have much say in the matter. Like an outdoor cat, her premonitions came and went as they pleased, filling her head with strange and often cryptic phrases that she had no idea how to interpret. Thankfully, she never had visions. Her sight was her own. It was her mind that sometimes felt like it belonged to someone else.

If she felt one of these unwanted thoughts coming on, she’d stick her fingers in her ears, close her eyes, and hum a song. Sometimes that was enough to quiet her mind, at least for a while.

Her attitude shifted as she entered her teen years, however, and she taught herself how to harness her gift to her advantage. Her primary objective was no more complicated than that of other kids her age: to impress her friends. And it worked for the most part. When she won six free concert tickets from an unsuspecting DJ by predicting what song would come on the radio next, she invited the five cutest boys in her class to go with her. She got her first kiss that night.

But even as she cheated radio stations and dumped boys hours before they’d planned to dump her, she had one steadfast rule: never use her ability for anything of consequence. She preferred it that way. The last thing she wanted was to be that person in a disaster movie whom everyone thinks is crazy for predicting the apocalypse. Then when it turns out she was right all along, everyone looks to her to fix it. Zadie didn’t want that kind of responsibility. It was hard enough just getting to work on time every day without neighbors bugging you about when the rapture was coming.

Or at least that’s what she told herself to help her sleep at night. A half-baked practical argument was easier to stomach than the true reason she’d stopped using her gift completely: that one awful moment she’d spent a thousand wishes trying to undo.

Before her mind had time to go down that particular rabbit hole, Zadie heard a faint ding in the other room. Someone had texted her. Either it was a message from Dustin reminding her to remove “that slimy seed goo” (i.e., chia seed pudding) from his fridge, or it was her little sister, Finn. Her high school graduation party was tomorrow, and Zadie was dreading it. She would have to drive an hour each way from her apartment in Austin to the exurbs of San Antonio just to make awkward small talk with Finn’s foster family, the Andersons. They were nice enough, but Zadie got the distinct impression that they didn’t like her. She couldn’t blame them, really. For the entire first year Finn was living with them, Zadie, who was eighteen at the time, did whatever she could to get her sister back.

With Clarence long out of the picture—he’d left when Finn was three and was rumored to be living in South Africa with his new wife and baby—Zadie was Finn’s next of kin. The case officer at Child Protective Services told Zadie that she needed to provide proof of stable full-time employment before they would even consider granting her legal guardianship. “But she’s my sister!” Zadie had protested.