Wild Raspberries is an emotional crepe chocked full of tart sensitivities and served in heaping portions with mandatory second and third helpings. If your appetite is whetted by familial psychodramas with occasional comic relief, you're likely to be attracted to this tasty dish. For the creamy center of the novel, Chappell has cooked up an intriguing premise. Suppose there were to be not just a sleepover, but a weeklong ladies-only lockdown with a grief counselor, a recently widowed young woman, her mother-in-law, and the paramour of the mother-in-law's somewhat recently deceased husband. While it may strain credulity, it certainly creates the potential for spontaneous fireworks.
The author does an able job of imbuing each participant with distinctive character traits that readily set readers' expectations as to how each is likely to react during progressive truth-telling sessions. Then she intertwines just enough secrets, lies, and revelations to flip those expectations on their backsides. She also adds enough interesting ancillary characters, subplots, and physical action to keep the four females ongoing caucuses from becoming overly confining. Similar to Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias, and Tracy Letts' August: Osage County, death, grief, and healing form the foundation from which Chappell's tale is built. The Southern and Midwestern locales of those stories are replaced here with the manicured lawns of the Maryland suburbs and the rolling hills of West Virginia. While similarities to those works may be noted, Chappell does a fine job of sprinkling enough wit, pathos, and surprise in her story to make this novel far more than a knockoff.