Wish You Well

Wish You Well

by David Baldacci


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Following a family tragedy, siblings Lou and Oz must leave New York and adjust to life in the Virginia mountains—but just as the farm begins to feel like home, they'll have to defend it from a dark threat in this New York Times bestselling coming-of-age story.

Precocious twelve-year-old Louisa Mae Cardinal lives in the hectic New York City of 1940 with her family. Then tragedy strikes—and Lou and her younger brother, Oz, must go with their invalid mother to live on their great-grandmother's farm in the Virginia mountains.

Suddenly Lou finds herself growing up in a new landscape, making her first true friend, and experiencing adventures tragic, comic, and audacious. When a dark, destructive force encroaches on her new home, her struggle will play out in a crowded Virginia courtroom...and determine the future of two children, an entire town, and the mountains they love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446699488
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 04/03/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 90,325
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

David Baldacci is a global #1 bestselling author, and one of the world's favorite storytellers. His books are published in over 45 languages and in more than 80 countries, with over 130 million worldwide sales. His works have been adapted for both feature film and television. David Baldacci is also the cofounder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across America. Still a resident of his native Virginia, he invites you to visit him at DavidBaldacci.com and his foundation at WishYouWellFoundation.org.


Northern Virginia

Date of Birth:

August 5, 1960

Place of Birth:

Richmond, VIrginia


B.A. in Political Science, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1982; J.D., University of Virginia, 1986

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

THE AIR WAS MOIST, THE COMING RAIN telegraphed by plump, gray clouds, and the blue sky fast fading. The 1936 four-door Lincoln Zephyr sedan moved down the winding road at a decent, if unhurried, pace. The car's interior was filled with the inviting aromas of warm sourdough bread, baked chicken, and peach and cinnamon pie from the picnic basket that sat so temptingly between the two children in the backseat.

Louisa Mae Cardinal, twelve years old, tall and rangy, her hair the color of sun-dappled straw and her eyes blue, was known simply as Lou. She was a pretty girl who would almost certainly grow into a beautiful woman. But Lou would fight tea parties, pigtails, and frilly dresses to the death. And somehow win. It was just her nature.

The notebook was open on her lap, and Lou was filling the blank pages with writings of importance to her, as a fisherman does his net. And from the girl's pleased look, she was landing fat cod with every pitch and catch. As always, she was very intent on her writing. Lou came by that trait honestly, as her father had such fever to an even greater degree than his daughter.

On the other side of the picnic basket was Lou's brother, Oz. The name was a contraction of his given one, Oscar. He was seven, small for his age, though there was the promise of height in his long feet. He did not possess the lanky limbs and athletic grace of his sister. Oz also lacked the confidence that so plainly burned in Lou's eyes. And yet he held his worn stuffed bear with the unbreakable clench of a wrestler, and he had a way about him that naturally warmed other's souls. After meeting Oz Cardinal,one came away convinced that he was a little boy with a heart as big and giving as God could bestow on lowly, conflicted mortals.

Jack Cardinal was driving. He seemed unaware of the approaching storm, or even the car's other occupants. His slender fingers drummed on the steering wheel. The tips of his fingers were callused from years of punching the typewriter keys, and there was a permanent groove in the middle finger of his right hand where the pen pressed against it. Badges of honor, he often said.

As a writer, Jack assembled vivid landscapes densely populated with flawed characters who, with each turn of the page, seemed more real than one's family. Readers would often weep as a beloved character perished under the writer's nib, yet the distinct beauty of the language never overshadowed the blunt force of the story, for the themes imbedded in Jack Cardinal's tales were powerful indeed. But then an especially well-tooled line would come along and make one smile and perhaps even laugh aloud, because a bit of humor was often the most effective tool for painlessly driving home a serious point.

Jack Cardinal's talents as a writer had brought him much critical acclaim, and very little money. The Lincoln Zephyr did not belong to him, for luxuries such as automobiles, fancy or plain, seemed forever beyond his reach. The car had been borrowed for this special outing from a friend and admirer of Jack's work. Certainly the woman sitting next to him had not married Jack Cardinal for money.

Amanda Cardinal usually bore well the drift of her husband's nimble mind. Even now her expression signaled good-natured surrender to the workings of the man's imagination, which always allowed him escape from the bothersome details of life. But later, when the blanket was spread and the picnic food was apportioned, and the children wanted to play, she would nudge her husband from his literary alchemy. And yet today Amanda felt a deeper concern as they drove to the park. They needed this outing together, and not simply for the fresh air and special food. This surprisingly warm late winter's day was a godsend in many ways. She looked at the threatening sky.

Go away, storm, please go away now.

To ease her skittish nerves, Amanda turned and looked at Oz and smiled. It was hard not to feel good when looking at the little boy, though he was a child easily frightened as well. Amanda had often cradled her son when Oz had been seized by a nightmare. Fortunately, his fearful cries would be replaced by a smile when Oz would at last focus on her, and she would want to hold her son always, keep him safe always.

Oz's looks came directly from his mother, while Lou had a pleasing variation of Amanda's long forehead and her father's lean nose and compact angle of jaw. And yet if Lou were asked, she would say she took after her father only. This did not reflect disrespect for her mother, but signaled that, foremost, Lou would always see herself as Jack Cardinal's daughter.

Amanda turned back to her husband. "Another story?" she asked as her fingers skimmed Jack's forearm.

The man's mind slowly rocked free from his latest concocting and Jack looked at her, a grin riding on full lips that, aside from the memorable flicker of his gray eyes, were her husband's most attractive physical feature, Amanda thought.

"Take a breath, work on a story," said Jack.

"A prisoner of your own devices," replied Amanda softly, and she stopped rubbing his arm.

As her husband drifted back to work, Amanda watched as Lou labored with her own story. Mother saw the potential for much happiness and some inevitable pain in her daughter. She could not live Lou's life for her, and Amanda knew she would have to watch her little girl fall at times. Still, Amanda would never hold out her hand, for Lou being Lou would certainly refuse it. But if her daughter's fingers sought out her mother's, she would be there. It was a situation burdened with pitfalls, yet it seemed the one destined for mother and daughter.

"How's the story coming, Lou?"

Head down, hand moving with the flourishing thrust of youthful penmanship, Lou said, "Fine." Amanda could easily sense her daughter's underlying message: that writing was a task not to be discussed with nonwriters. Amanda took it as good-naturedly as she did most things having to do with her volatile daughter. But even a mother sometimes needed a comforting pillow on which to lay her head, so Amanda reached out and tousled her son's blondish hair. Sons were not nearly so complex, and as much as Lou wore her out, Oz rejuvenated his mother.

"How're you doing, Oz?" asked Amanda.

The little boy answered by letting out a crowing sound that banged off all sides of the car's interior, startling even the inattentive Jack.

"Miss English said I'm the best rooster she's ever heard," said Oz, and crowed again, flapping his arms. Amanda laughed and even Jack turned and smiled at his son.

Lou smirked at her brother, but then reached over and tenderly patted Oz on the hand. "And you are too, Oz. A lot better than me when I was your age," said Lou.

Amanda smiled at Lou's remark and then said, "Jack, you're coming to Oz's school play, aren't you?"

Lou said, "Mom, you know he's working on a story. He doesn't have time to watch Oz playing a rooster."

"I'll try, Amanda. I really will this time," Jack said. However, Amanda knew that the level of doubt in his tone heralded another disappointment for Oz. For her.

Amanda turned back and stared out the windshield. Her thoughts showed through so clearly on her features.

Life married to Jack Cardinal: I'll try.

Oz's enthusiasm, however, was undiminished. "And next I'm going to be the Easter Bunny. You'll be there, won't you, Mom?"

Amanda looked at him, her smile wide and easing her eyes to pleasing angles.

"You know Mom wouldn't miss it," she said, giving his head another gentle rub.

But Mom did miss it. They all missed it.

Customer Reviews

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Wish You Well 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 254 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1940s New York City, twelve years old Louisa Mae ¿Lou¿ Cardinal hero-worships her father, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer. Lou¿s dream is to become as highly regarded as he is, but she is unaware of how little money her dad Jack earns. Considered by critics one of the best authors of his generation, Jack is considering Hollywood in order to feed his family of four.

Lou¿s idyllic world crashes when her beloved father dies in a car accident. With her mother in shock, Lou and her younger brother Oz are displaced and move to their great-grandmother¿s remote Virginia farm. The two siblings begin to heal, but a new fight to save their new home is on the horizon.

WISH YOU WELL is a powerful character-driven historical novel that provides the audience a look at the bone marrow of emotions of the key players during tragedy. Readers will take to heart Lou, Oz, their mom, and their great-grandmother. The support cast augments the tale with even deeper glimpses of the Cardinals. Although David Baldacci overdoes the melodrama and reverts to a well-written courtroom climax, WISH YOU WELL is a great look at daily survival during a period of intense grief and displacement.

Harriet Klausner

magnoliafaye More than 1 year ago
I have had this book for awhile and just got around to reading it. I certainly wasn't expecting to find that it was the best book I have read this entire year. In fact, I am going to buy it for 2 family members for Christmas. It is rare that a book is so well written that you see, feel and even smell the characters and their surroundings. I hope Baldacci will someday give us more of this kind of story. All books should be this entertaining.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Baldacci is writing what? That waspish question buzzed around publishing circles when Warner announced that the bestselling author of The Simple Truth, Absolute Power and other turbo-thrillers--an author generally esteemed more for his plots than for his characters or prose--was trying his hand at mainstream fiction, with a mid-century period novel set in the rural South, no less. Shades of John Grisham and A Painted House. But guess what? Clearly inspired by his subject--his maternal ancestors, he reveals in a foreword, hail from the mountain area he writes about here with such strength--Baldacci triumphs with his best novel yet, an utterly captivating drama centered on the difficult adjustment to rural life faced by two children when their New York City existence shatters in an auto accident. That tragedy, which opens the book with a flourish, sees acclaimed but impecunious riter Jack Cardinal dead, his wife in a coma and their daughter, Lou, 12, and son, Oz, seven, forced to move to the southwestern Virginia farm of their aged great-grandmother, Louisa. Several questions propel the subsequent story with vigor. Will the siblings learn to accept, even to love, their new life? Will their mother regain consciousness? And--in a development that takes the narrative into familiar Baldacci territory for a gripping legal showdown--will Louisa lose her land to industrial interests? Baldacci exults in high melodrama here, and it doesn't always work: the death of one major character will wring tears from the stoniest eyes, but the reappearance of another, though equally hanky-friendly, is outright manipulative. Even so, what the novel offers above all is bone-deep emotional truth, as its myriad characters--each, except for one cartoonish villain, as real as readers' own kin--grapple not just with issues of life and death but with the sufferings and joys of daily existence in a setting detailed with finely attuned attention and a warm sense of wonder. This novel has a huge heart--and millions of readers are going to love it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this wonderful book. It takes me back to my Grandmother's house with the smell of sugar cookies in the old oven. All I can say, it's a wonderful book and will tear at your heart strings.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can sum up my opinion of Wish You Well in 1 word, but since I am long-winded, I will elaborate. I was furious when I found out that Mr. Baldacci had a new book coming out that was not his usual blood-pumping, nail-biting style of writing. I vowed I would not read this book. Well, I was bookless, which all book lovers know is a fate worse than death, so I broke my vow and bought the book; a decision I do not regret. One word is all it takes to sum up my opinion. EXTRAORDINARY--extraordinary characters, extraordinary setting, extraordinary circumstances, and I repeat extraordinary characters. While it will always be my preference to read books that get my blood flowing, Wish You Well, was a nice change of pace. I would have given it 5 stars, but why risk Mr. Baldacci never again writing another thriller. This book is a keeper!
DanBru More than 1 year ago
One of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. I felt like I really got to know the characters for all of their good, and bad. A very pleasant read and hard to put down once I started reading it.
Sonfollower More than 1 year ago
Don't read the synopis or any of the overly detailed reviews. Let the characters and story reveal themselves to you. You will feel it in your heart and soul. I am a big Baldacci fan and have read many of his books. I was going out of town for a few days and found myself bookless - Yikes! I went on-line just before hitting the road, typed in Baldacci as he always is good to read. I looked for a book with lots of star ratings and just cliked and purchased. I am so glad that I didn't know what to expect. The book is a marvel. It flows over, under, around and through you with a palpable and physical draw. The characters are strong and the the plot engrossing. I laughed, I cried and I loved every moment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed Mr. Baldacci's other works, but I can tell this one was special and came straight from his heart. A wonderful story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this story. We need more books in which the characters have values and morals. David Baldacci is one of my favorites.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is full of honesty, integrity and values told very gently and with depth. It is captivating. It has real life drama. I bought it on audiotape and will listen to it again and again. I highly recommend the tape. It is very well read. I also plan to read the book. Initially I was surprised that it did not follow his previous books' storylines, but it is equally well written-- and it keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting for the next shoe to drop.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not at all what I expected. Very heartwarming. Wonderful book. Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time getting into this book but so glad I stuck with it. Was totally different from other books by Mr. Baldacchi but I did enjoy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the Virginia that I see when I research my ancestry or when I go home along the beautiful Blue RIdge Mountains What a wonderful story about family and finding our own way
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable. I felt all the emotions when I read this book . Fear. Joy laughter and sadness. Great story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mountain people living off the land and bare essentials. Two children lose their parents from a car accident. Their father was killed and their mother in a coma. They are sent to the mountains to live with their grandmother, their fathers mother. Definitely worthy of tissues. Big company wants to take over the land......a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed David Baldacci's Wish You Well. It is a feel good story. The characters are lovable, and the story is great. Highly recommended.
Anonymous 11 months ago
readingrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A well-crafted and touching story reminiscent of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.
turtlesleap on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lou and Oz Cardinal lose their father in a car accident and their mothr is left in a catatonic state. The children and their mother move from New York to the Virginia Mountains where their father grew up and their great grandmother still lives. The children's life is changed dramatically and, as their story unfolds, they experience the hardship, the tragedy and the sacrifice that are hallmarks of life in the mountains. The story is somewhat predictable but Baldacci's characters come to life on the page. I dislike efforts to "write" dialect and this books is no exception. Even that flaw, however, could not spoil my enjoyment of this sweet, simple story.
kissmeimgone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After a terrible accident that leaves two children's father dead and their mother in a coma-like state, two children from the bustling city of New York to the quieter town in Virginia. A coming-of-age story that asserts that wherever you go, friends and family will follow.
cas_ar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book of family, faith, home during the struggles of living in Appalachian country around the 1940's. It makes you want to know more about your family roots; and what heritage plays in the persons we become.
nyiper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"How" and "why" he wrote this book is described by Balducci in his own words at the end of the audio version---a wonderful taste of his view of one's place in family history. I would be curious to know how some of his thoughts, although not written too long ago, would change with the current economic conditions (2009). This was a listening experience that held your attention completely. His other books do that, too, but this was very rewarding in a different way.
wendallyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was such an unexpected book- it leaves you with such a good feeling when you're done. It was passed on to me by a friend with the promise to pass it along when I was done. Just beautiful.
kavyen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story setting moves from New York to the mountains in Virginia when Lou¿s dad and award-winning writer dies in a car accident. It describes the life of Lou and her brother Oz after being thrust to be cared by their great-grandmother in the mountains far away from civilization. The story has excellent promise and has all the emotional elements of friendship, trust, sadness, loss, truth, love and victory in the right proportions. The clear descriptions of the people, events and locations made me feel the book and not just read it.The characters were marvelous (and I rarely use this word). Lou mostly plays the part of a mature stubborn child, but when situation demands alternates to the 12-year-old kid. The sibling love and understanding is simply adorable. Great Grandma Louisa Mae Cardinal is a woman of character who shows superior strength when she needs to stand up for a cause she believes in. She is a giver by nature and manages to leave a pleasant mark in us. I was deeply upset when she passes away and hoped that the author would have allowed the wishing well to grant Lou¿s wish. For me, all of the characters were impeccable; there was not one person or situation that I felt was out-of-place.It has been a while since I read a family drama but this one has touched me like never before. A big 5 on 5 and take time to feel this one.
RBeffa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I guess I'll call this a feel good book. I can see how some people might think this is an extended episode from the Walton's or something, but I read it as a slice of Americana and an homage to a rural way of life in Appalachia in the 1940's. There's a touch of To Kill a Mockingbird in here, and a slight "fairytale" ending I suppose. It is full of interesting characters, good and bad, and it really gave me a sense of the times and the Virginia mountain land. I had read praise of this book and I was glad to find it was deserved. At the end of the novel, reading the final chapter called "Today", I found myself smiling and admiring what an enjoyable book this was. Recommended.