#SheReviews Wildflower by Monique Mulligan

April 11, 2022

Writing the novel Wildflower has been a labour of love for West Australian author, Monique Mulligan.This timely book was released on International Women’s Day and bravely tackles the topics of bullying and domestic violence. Monique tells her character’s stories with tenderness and sensitivity. Here at She Society we are passionate about women supporting women and it is great to see a book tackling women’s issues, the bystander mentality and our changing Australian culture. I found this compelling story hard to put down.

About the Author 

Monique Mulligan is an author and interviewer from Perth, Western Australia. A former journalist, news editor and publisher, Monique combines her part time work at an Arts Centre with her writing and editing. She has had children’s books and many short stories published. Her first novel Wherever You Go was also published by Pilyara Press in 2020. 

The Story

Wildflower is set in Australia in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. The story is narrated by 10 year old, Jane Kelly. Jane lives in the suburbs of Sydney with her Mum, Dad and older siblings, Sal and Jim. Jane is being bullied at school and fears that she doesn’t have a friend in the world. 

There is great excitement when new neighbours arrive next door. We meet single Mum, Rose and her daughter, Acacia who is exactly the same age as Jane.The pair are soon inseparable and spend an idyllic Summer becoming firm friends.They ride their bikes, play at the park, eat Zooper Doopers and cool off with the neighbourhood kids running through sprinklers and zooming down the soaped up Slip ‘n’ Slide.

As the Kelly family wrestle with their own secrets it becomes increasingly obvious that something is seriously wrong next door. Rose’s boyfriend is prone to dark moods and Acacia must do whatever it takes to protect her vulnerable Mum. Jane and her family watch on with increasing alarm. Jane wonders when is it time to speak up?

Fast forward to 1999 and an abused woman arrives at a women’s shelter. Here she recognises someone from her past. Desperate to reconnect and rebuild her life she must first confront her own darkest secrets if she is to heal.

For those of us who grew up during this time this book is a nostalgic journey. Making and sharing food is a huge part of Monique’s life and she dots her tome with evocative food memories from the past. There is also a reminder of music, fashion, culture and norms of the day. It brought back many memories of things I had forgotten. I found myself nodding along and smiling as the words resonated with me so much.

Wildflower is heart-wrenching but warm. The characters are so well drawn and you care about their emotions and safety. This brave and necessary novel shines a light on a problem that is unfortunately not going away. By looking back you can see that attitudes are slowly changing and hopefully more women are speaking out. There is still so much more to be done. This beautifully crafted story encourages you to reflect on your own and society’s attitudes.

I couldn’t put down this emotional coming – of – age story and it will resonate across generations. At its core is friendship and caring , with strong themes of domestic violence, bullying and the rights of all women to be loved and cherished. Monique’s own empathy and kindness shine throughout the novel. It’s a five star read from me. Wildflower will leave you thinking long after you turn the last page.