The Road to Enchantment, Kaya McLaren: Book Review

A coming of age that really tugs at the heartstrings.

the road to enchantment kaya mclaren book reviewSt. Martin's Griffin / Robin L. Corey
The Road to Enchantment Book Cover The Road to Enchantment
Kaya McLaren
Adult Fiction
St. Martin's Griffin

As a young girl, Willow watched her mother leave their home in Washington State in a literal blaze of glory: she set the mattress of her cheating husband on fire in her driveway, roasting marshmallow peeps and hot dogs before the fire department arrived.

And with that, she and Willow set off to New Mexico, to a new life, to a world of arroyos and canyons bordering an Apache reservation. Willow was devastated. Her eccentric mother believed in this new life and set about starting a winery and goat ranch. But for Willow, it meant initially being bullied and feeling like an outsider. Today, as a grown woman, Willow much prefers Los Angeles and her job as a studio musician. But things tend to happen in threes: her mother dies, her boyfriend dumps her, and Willow discovers she is pregnant.

The DeVine Winery and Goat Ranch is all she has left, even if it is in financial straits and unmanageable back taxes. There is something, though, about the call of “home.” She's surprised to find that her Apache best friend Darrel along with the rest of the community seems to think she belongs far more than she ever thought she did. Can Willow redefine what home means for her, and can she make a go of the legacy her mother left behind?

Told with Kaya McLaren’s humor and heart, The Road to Enchantment is a story about discovering that the last thing you want is sometimes the one thing you need.

This review contains quotes from the novel.

*Special thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin for allowing us to read Kaya McLaren’s The Road to Enchantment.

Kaya McLaren’s The Road to Enchantment is a moving novel about figuring out where you belong.

When Willow was a young girl, she witnessed her mother set fire to her cheating husband’s mattress and waited until the fire department came around to extinguish it. After that, the two of them moved away to New Mexico in hopes of starting a new life in an Apache reservation. Once they arrive, Willow’s mother gets the idea to start her own winery and goat ranch, but, of course, as the new girl in town, she’s bullied for being so different from others.

“I sat back on my knees, looked up at the front door of the home where my mother’s absence felt so wrong, where it was finally real in a way it hadn’t been until that very moment. Then overcome by weakness, I laid down on the gravel, rolled over, and looked up at the sky above. It was clear and blue with only one cloud in it–a large bear that floated in the southeast over the Vigil place. A bear. My old best friend, Darrel. The sky seemed to be telling me he was coming, and so I shut my eyes and waited.”

-excerpt from Kaya McLaren’s The Road to Enchantment 

Jumping to present day: Willow is now living in Los Angeles as a studio musician, but all of a sudden she gets dumped by her boyfriend, is pregnant with his child, and her mother has died. The winery and goat ranch she inherited from her mother in New Mexico is all Willow has left. So when she returns to the ranch, she’s surprised to see that her old friend, Darrel, and the rest of the ranching community; it feels as though this life was her calling all along. The community welcomes her warmly, and feel Willow, too, is where she belongs: home. But now, Willow has to figure out how she can continue her mother’s legacy and juggle the responsibility of making this ranch a home fit for her baby.

The way McLaren describes the ranch and New Mexico in so much detail I felt were the highlights of this novel. I have never been to a ranch, let alone New Mexico, but her use of syntax and vivid descriptors made it feel like I was there the entire time. I also loved Willow as a character; I loved how she embraced her mother’s ranch after her passing despite whatever negative memories she might have associated with her homeland.

In the end, Willow becomes a stronger woman for her decision, and honestly: she’s become one of my favorite female protagonists. I would recommend The Road to Enchantment to anyone who loves a strong-willed character or those who love books about how people go about carrying on their family’s legacy.

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Jessica Duffield
the authorJessica Duffield
Contributing Writer
I am a junior in college. Books are my passion and I hope to work in book publishing once I graduate from journalism school.