This book is gorgeous. Written in 1989, it has a beautiful, timeless feel to it that I’m nearly sure was the origin of Wicca phase in early adolescence. It tells the story of the 9 year-old Wise Child (yes, that’s actually her name) who is taken in by a “good” witch, Juniper, who heals people based on herbs and the natural cycles of the earth, partly in an attempt to keep her away from her “evil” witch mother who uses magic for the usual sins: immortality, love spells, beauty, general shallow bitchiness, etc. The book has a lovely sense of dreaming, as well as a plot which is defined by the choices of women. The good guys, the bad guys, the mentors, the neighbors – apart from Wise Child’s Dad who gets brief mentions here and there–this is a book about women: their individual choices, failures, weaknesses, and strengths. When I read it as a teenager, it had a huge impact, and the book still holds up pretty well. But I’d still mostly recommend it to folks between the ages of 10-16.
It’s worth mentioning that there are 3 books in this series. The second one, Juniper, is awesome. Unlike Wise Child, which (intentionally) plods a bit, Juniper is an adventurous romance story of witches learning their craft, defeating monsters, and learning about the life-and-dangers of mistakes in weaving. The last book, Colman, came out 14 years after Juniper and is … not great. Number one: Monica Furlong excels in writing women, not men, and she was actively dying of cancer (and then died) the year it came out. You can definitely tell she was distracted and wanted to finish the series while she could. It’s tragic, and also out of print. Read the first two.