Author Claire Cook’s fourth and latest entry in her Wildwater Walking Club novel series is “Walk the Talk,” and this one is every bit as imaginative, thought-provoking, and witty as each of the previous entries. The Walking Clubs’ adventures, featuring protagonist Noreen and her club partners, Rosie and Tess, offer generous samples of Cook’s salient wit and thoughtful commentaries. It might be tempting for some to label Cook’s novels light romantic Women’s Lit – and they certainly are romantic, in more ways than one – but to do so seriously undervalues the many uniquely admirable qualities of her work. They’re also full of marvelous gems of home-spun practical wisdom, thoughtful comments – even studies – of human nature, the vagaries and problems of human relationships, romantic and otherwise, and exceedingly clever, often self-deprecating humor. And the Wildwater series offers significant travelogs, too. Quite a package, indeed.
In “Walk the Talk,” Noreen finds herself in a deeply depressing and puzzling romantic tangle which is partly her own doing and certainly partly the fault of her hoped-for-husband-to-be, Rick. They are very much in love, and near the beginning of the novel, they make serious and specific marriage plans. He will sell his beach house for an unbelievably exorbitant price (because of its prime beach location) and move in with Noreen. Both will be in decent financial shape as a result of the sale. This plan will afford Noreen the time and freedom she needs to get her own occupational situation settled and developed. But, as expected, those lovely plans go terribly awry. When Rick’s two very jealous and immature adult daughters are made aware of the marriage plans, they throw appropriate fits, immediately decide that they hate Noreen, and persuade Rick to postpone his house sale – thereby wrecking the marriage plans.
Noreen is understandably crushed. She makes every effort to push Rick completely out of her life, totally refusing to even communicate with him. She can envision no way to get her life back on track, and she comes to rely almost solely on the walks with her Wildwater partners for all-too temporary relief from the overwhelming disappointments of her situation. Her self-image crumbles, and her future is bleak.
The three amigas finally decide to embark on a spur-of-the-moment quick walking vacation to Savannah, Georgia, to briefly get all their problems off their respective minds. The trip is a beautiful experience for both the women and us readers. Cook’s descriptions of the wonders of Savannah are exhilarating. And best of all, one painful event provides the author a clever and surprising opportunity to demonstrate the ironic twists of fate which can first bedevil us and then turn into our saving grace. It all involves the horrendously stinging and itching bite of an imported fire ant. And that’s where this plot summary ends. No spoilers here.
For Claire Cook’s many fans and followers, “Walk the Talk” should be required reading. And for everyone else, here is the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself to a superb writer, a fascinating book, and a hugely enjoyable series: The Wildwater Walking Club.
Review by Jack Kramer
Please note: This review is based on the advance galley provided by the author for review purposes.