Land of a Hundred Wonders [NOOK Book]

Overview

From the national bestselling author of Whistling in the Dark comes another funny, poignant, unforgettable story.

The summer Gibby McGraw catches her big break, the cicadas are humming, and it's so warm even the frogs are sweating. Brain damaged after a tragic car accident that took both her parents, Gibby is now NQR (Not Quite Right), a real challenge for a fledgling ...
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Land of a Hundred Wonders

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Overview

From the national bestselling author of Whistling in the Dark comes another funny, poignant, unforgettable story.

The summer Gibby McGraw catches her big break, the cicadas are humming, and it's so warm even the frogs are sweating. Brain damaged after a tragic car accident that took both her parents, Gibby is now NQR (Not Quite Right), a real challenge for a fledgling newspaper reporter. Especially when she stumbles upon the dead body of the next governor of Kentucky, Buster Malloy.

Armed with her trusty blue spiral note-book, Gibby figures that solving the murder might be her best chance to prove to everyone that she can become Quite Right again. But she gets more than she bargained for when she uncovers a world of corruption, racism, and family secrets in small town Cray Ridge. Lucky for her, she's also about to discover that some things are far more important than all the brains in the world, and that miracles occur in the most unexpected moments.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Set in Cray Ridge, Ky., in 1973, Kagen's winsome second novel (after Whistling in the Dark) offers laughter and bittersweet sighs. As a child, NQR ("Not Quite Right") Gibby McGraw survived an auto accident that claimed her parents' lives, but left her somewhat mentally challenged. Now 20 and living with her beloved grampa, Gibby publishes Gibby's Gazette, distributed from local hot spots like Loretta's Candy World and Washateria. Gibby's latest scoop, complete with photos, is her discovery of the body of politician Buster Malloy, who aspired to become governor. Gibby launches a "meticulous investigation" complicated by nasty Sneaky Tim Ray Holloway stealing her briefcase. Other distractions include her best friend Clever's getting knocked up and disturbing times in Browntown, an African-American community. Though Gibby can get discombobulated, this wonderfully wise Nancy Drew strives mightily to become QR ("Quite Right") in the head: she was already QR in the heart. Author tour. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440632839
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 7/29/2008
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 196,198
  • File size: 445 KB

Meet the Author

Lesley Kagen
Lesley Kagen is an actress, voice-over talent, and restaurateur, as well as the author of two previous national bestselling novels. Whistling in the Dark has been translated into five languages and was a Midwest Choice Honor winner. Land of a Hundred Wonders, an Indie Next pick, was also nominated for a Midwest Choice Award. She lives near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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Read an Excerpt

A Deadline

Ya ever notice how some folks get well known for how they dress or hunt or even what kind of truck they drive? Along with my outstanding Scrabble playing, I’m well known for my newspaper. Who: Me

What: Reporting

Where: Top O’ the Mornin’ Diner and Pumps. Cray Ridge, Kentucky, United States of America. Conveniently located at the corner of Main and Route 12.

When: Friday, August 13, 1973 Why: ’Cause if I don’t get cracking, next week’s front page is gonna have all the pizzazz of a piece of one-­ ply.

I put my favorite No. 2 back to work. Welcome to Cray Ridge

You can set your watch by Miss Cheryl and Miss DeeDee showing up for biscuits and gravy every Sunday morning at the diner. Miss Cheryl tells me she’s a secretary. Her friend, Miss DeeDee, has been experiencing some trouble with her vi sion, so they’ve been driving all the way from Paducah to visit regular with Miss Lydia.

As you probably already know, an investigative reporter needs folks to write about. Late-­ breaking stories about trees, for instance, are few and far between. So when I’m not busy bussing tables, I’m allowed to interview subjects from all walks of life who later on become the who what where when and why of my stories. That’s one of the things that’s so rewarding about working here with Grampa at Top O’ the Mornin’.

We’re the last stop for refreshments before you hit Highway 75. You’ll know the diner when you see it. Shaped like a shoe box, it’s got tires washed white and lip-­ pink roses lining the en-­ trance. Candy-­ cane awnings billow like crazy when the west wind kicks up. There’s a counter inside with slick yellow stools, booths that sit four, and up at the cash register there’s toothpicks—­ Take Two . . . They’re Free! And since everybody knows what a tre-­ mendous part the good or the bad version of luck can play in your life, a rusty horseshoe all the way from Texas hangs lopsided above the screen door that creaks when you open it, but not when you close it. Just another one of life’s little mysteries. (In case you haven’t noticed . . . life is chock-­ full of ’em.)

This morning, like every morning, my grampa, who owns the place, is where he is most of the time when he isn’t out on the lake. In the kitchen. Decked out in his white apron and cowboy fishing hat. He’s wrassling up the breakfasts he learned to cook in that army mess, and damn, if there’s anything that smells better on Earth than sizzling pork sausage, I wish somebody’d let me know. Oh, wait, I just remembered lily-­ of-­ the-­ valley smell . . . it’s simply outta this world.

“Hey, Lois Lane, there’s tables need your attention,” Grampa yells, sticking his head through the kitchen peek window.

“Gimme a minute, Charlie,” I call back. “Gotta get down a few more words ’fore this story flies outta my head.”

Lois Lane is not my real name. Grampa’s just making a joke due to his keen sense of humor. My real name is Gibson Mc Graw, but most everybody calls me Gibby. I’m twenty, or maybe thirty-­ three years old. (I’ll check with Grampa and get back to you on this.) I’ve been living with him permanent in Cray Ridge since the night three years ago, the kind of night anybody in their right mind stays home and is grateful to do so, me and mine were heading down here so I could start my usual summer stay. The rain was gushing down so bad it erased the highway line and our Buick sprouted wings more than a few times. And the sky wasn’t the only one spittin’ mad that night. The very last thing I can re member my mama saying in her crossest of voices is, “We’re not gonna outrun this storm . . . get off at the next exit and find us a motel . . . ya got talent at findin’ motels, don’tcha, Joe? ’Specially the real cheap kind.” Then my daddy bellowed back, “I’m warn ing you, Addy . . . for the last time. . . .”

Little did he know how right he was. A wiper stroke later, we rounded a bend in the road and bounced off a stalled Champion bus, also from Chicago.

Thank the Lord for passing Dixie Oil trucker Mr. Hank Sim mons, who found me wadded up on the edge of a creek and called for help on his 10­-­4 radio. I got three broken ribs, a gashed-­ up ankle, a cracked collarbone, and the worst of all—­ the left side of my head got dented. Correction: The worst of all was that I be came an orphan that night. My mama and daddy made it out of that wagon, but not for long. (See earlier statement about luck. This would be a perfect example of the bad version.)

So that’s it in a nutshell. All that I can remember, anyways, about the night I became what Grampa calls NQR, which is his pet name for Not Quite Right, which means—­ brain-­ wise—­ I’m not doing so hot.

The Louisville Hospital sent him this letter dated July 10, 1970. I found it balled up in the glove department of his truck. Dear Mr. Murphy, As a result of the brain injury she incurred in the auto accident, early indications are that your granddaughter is experiencing difficulties with word usage, reasoning skill, attention span and disinhibition. Currently, we’re not certain if her memories are repressed as a result of the trauma or physiologically based. Only time will tell how much of the damage may be perma-­ nent or how much is

The rest is ripped off in a jaggedy line. But what I think those hospital folks were trying to get at is:

Words and their meanings can elude me. Elude: To avoid. (I remembered that one last week when a catfish spent most of his morning eluding me, the little bugger.)

I’d never use the words “lightnin’ speed” to describe my thinking.

Reverend Jack says my mind gets to wandering more than the Israelites.

I have an awfully hard time putting the brakes on my motor ing mouth.

And my memory, well, it’s sorta hit-­ and-­ run.

“The brain is mysterious,” the hospital doctors told Grampa when he came to pick me up. “Current research indicates that keeping her mind stimulated may help regenerate the neurons and . . .”

“That right,” Grampa said, blowing Lucky Strike smoke in their faces. (He also suggested the doctors do something I don’t believe is humanly possible with their mysterious heads and their mysterious asses as he wheeled me out of that hospital so fast I swear, the wheelchair laid rubber.)

Now before you go off feeling sorry for me like most every body else does, I want you to know that all is not lost. Though I’ll confess to wavering at times, I haven’t thrown in the trowel. Of course, I’ve been trying to better myself on a daily basis, but reaching this lofty goal wasn’t of a vital nature ’til just recently. After Miss Lydia, my spiritual advisor, a woman of such astound ing powers that she may chat whenever she wishes with those who have passed over to THE GREAT UNKNOWN, informed me of a horrible, heart-­ gutting situation. “Your mama’s not resting in peace, your mama’s soul is restless,” she wailed over and over, her chest heaving.

Just in case you’re not familiar with the goings-­ on of the dearly departed, what Mama’s supposed to be doing is gazing down at her baby girl from on high, fluttering her wings in pride, her halo shooting off sparks of joy. She’s not supposed to be pacing the stars, wringing her small but strong hands. Even though Miss Lydia tried to comfort me by telling me that it’s not my fault, I don’t believe her. That’s exactly what she would say, her being the heart of Land of a Hundred Wonders. No, I’m positive Mama’s restlessness is on account of me. Because I’m NQR.

So that’s why #1 on my VERY IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO list is to prove that I can get Quite Right again. I figure I’m gonna have to set my hook into a heck of a plan in order to convince Mama. Ya know, something splashy. Like winning one of those public Scrabble tournaments they hold over in Appleville the first Sunday of every month. Or maybe reporting an awfully good story. It can’t be something normal-­ like. It’s gotta be some-­ thing near miraculous in nature. Like me surviving the crash. Miss Lydia tells me all the time I’m a living, breathing miracle.

At the current time, I’m leaning toward that reporting of an awfully good story plan ’cause you’re never gonna guess what I found on Browntown Beach this morning on my way to Land of a Hundred Wonders. Not the usual trout with what-­ the-­ hell- happened eyes. Not a soggy boot with gnaw marks neither. Or even a crushed-­ up can of Falls Beer. No. Could be I stumbled upon the kind of story that’ll get lips flapping far and wide. I can perceive it all now. “I swear, the McGraw gal’s better at reportin’ these days than a twelve gauge,” folks’ll say, trumpeting my Ga zette headline loud enough to be heard all the way up to the Pearly Gates. “Can you believe how much righter she’s gotten?”

Lord. I believe I’ll move that public Scrabble tournament plan to my back burner for the time being. Now that I’ve had a chance to think this through, this awfully good story plan appears to be the answer to my prayers! Yes, indeedy. Start scouting for a nicely cushioned cloud to set your restless self, Mama. ’Cause that dead body? It’s gonna be our ticket to Quite Right heaven.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Cat for TeensReadToo.com

    Though she survived the wreckage that took her parents lives one rainy summer night, that near-fatal car accident left Gibby McGraw N(ot).Q(uite).R(ight).

    While she spends her mornings working at Grandpa Charlie's Top o'the Morning Diner, her afternoons visiting the residents of Cray Ridge, Kentucky, running errands while Grandpa fishes, and gathering information to put in the stories she writes for Gibby's Gazette, Gibby also realizes everyone in town thinks she's diminished. Heck, even Sheriff LeRoy Johnson called her "dumber than anthracite" when he thought she was out of hearing range; but Gibby has a plan.

    At the top of her list of VERY IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO is to prove she is Quite Right and can take care of herself so Mama can rest in peace and Charlie will get off her back and stop sending her to talk with Reverend Jack every time she says or does something "inappropriate."

    And the perfect plan fell into her lap when she found Buster Malloy's murdered body, the man with plans to be the future state governor, washed up on the shores of Browntown. Now all Gibby need do is employ the skills learned from THE IMPORTANCE OF PERCEPTION IN METICULOUS INVESTIGATION by Howard Redmond of New York City, New York, to find Buster's killer and write the article for her paper.

    What Gibby didn't count on was all hell breaking loose in the meantime.

    I'm a huge fan of novels set in small towns; it's a prime opportunity for authors to utilize the family dynamic on a much larger scale and populate their world with plenty of quirky, compelling characters. Cray Ridge, Kentucky, is lousy with those folks, and I mean that in the best way possible.

    Gibby's the protagonist and we experience the novel via her first-person narrative, but all the characters were spectacular. Lesley Kagen had me laughing at Gibby's inappropriate outbursts and downright embarrassing questions until my sides hurt, and she had me stemming the flow of tears at certain points throughout while demonstrating just how much Gibby had lost due to the brain damage.

    There's so much more regarding friend and familial connections, secrets and betrayals, but I fear going further into detail will lead to spoilers. All I can say is the roots of the characters' relationships run deep and when that happens, there is a great deal of twisting and rot that must eventually be unraveled.

    A second, but equally important aspect in this novel is its social context. Ms. Kagen set LAND OF A HUNDRED WONDERS in the post-Civil Rights Movement south. As anyone who has ever spent time in the United States southern regions, there are places one can visit today in 2009, and still feel as though the events of that era never took place. Ms. Kagen does a superior job portraying the segregation that still existed in small places like Cray Ridge, not to mention the abuse of power employed by white law enforcement, and the simmering tensions between the former and those forced to live in the deteriorating conditions of Browntown.

    We also see the toll Vietnam took on American soldiers sent overseas in Gibby's friend Billy Brown Junior. The only son of the town's richest man, he spends the days since his return in the woods, often times believing he's still in the jungles of the Orient, with his own hideout shelters all over town....

    Read the full review at www.teensreadtoo.com

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2009

    Awesome Book

    This is one of the best books I have ever read. I recommend this book for anybody. I loved the plot and the love story between Gibby and Billy is so precious.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    ENJOYED!

    Three years ago, Gibby McGraw was involved in a car accident that took the lives of her parents and left Gibby Not Quite Right. This heart-warming book has it all, a little suspense, wonderful characters, a love story, brilliant and wit. ENJOYED!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2009

    An excellent book that will stay with you forever.

    This books needs to made into a movie. It's a book that makes you smile as you read. There are certain books that should be mandatory reading in middle school to teach tolerance such as this book, Whispering in the Dark and a another special book: The Color of Water.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    Not what you expect!

    The beging starts out pretty slow and its kinda hard to get into it. I'm not sure if I ever really did.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2008

    The heroine hooks the audience from the onset

    In 1970 the car accident that killed her parents left Gibby McGrew with a brain injury that caused some damage that her grandpa calls not quite right (NQR). Three years later, the twenty something Gibby lives with her grandpa and works at his Top O¿ the Mornin¿ Diner and Pumps in Cray Ridge, Kentucky. Her dream of becoming a big city investigative reporter was smashed when her brain was dented on the day she became an orphan.-------------- However, Gibby refuses to totally give up on her goal. She produces the weekly Gabby's Gazette that patrons of her grandpa¿s diner can pick up a copy on Fridays. However she sees an opportunity to prove to her grandpa that though she will never be quite right, she can function quite nicely. Gibby has found the murdered corpse of the alleged next state governor, Mr. Buster ¿Butter¿ Malloy. She plans to solve the case.------------ Gibby hooks the audience from the onset and keeps our empathy throughout with her NQIR chick lit asides. Her commentary along with a strong support cast make for a delightful historical regional investigative tale. Fans will appreciate LAND OF A HUNDRED WONDERS due to the guide displaying an appreciative outlook for life more so than most people who are allegedly quite right. She is a ¿shoe-in¿ to gain reader admiration for her can do lifestyle.-------------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2012

    I bought this book because it was only a couple of dollars, but

    I bought this book because it was only a couple of dollars, but it far exceeded my expectations--it was so funny and charming, the language was consistent which is a rare find with uniquely tonal books, and the characters were fleshed out just enough to propel the story along. Very good.

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  • Posted July 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Set in 1973, Gibby MaGraw has lost her parents to an automobile

    Set in 1973, Gibby MaGraw has lost her parents to an automobile crash that she survived. But she did suffer brain damage that has left her NQR (Not Quite Right). This makes being a newspaper reporter pretty challenging.

    While out looking for her next big story she stumbles upon the dead body of the next governor of Kentucky, Buster Malloy. She figures if she can solve the murder and write a fantastic news article she will show everyone including her mother in heaven that she is on the road to becoming Quite Right again.

    Off with her leather-like briefcase that holds her blue spiral notebook, her favorite #2's, and her camera she stumbles over quite a few more astonishing things as she tries to put all the clues together with her hit and miss memory.

    More important though she learns some things are far more important than all the brains in the world, and that miracles occur in the most unexpected moments.


    Lesley Kagen is a Wisconsin Author and I am making my way through all of her books and I am enjoying them so much.

    The author is excellent at bringing her characters to life. Gibby has been through some terrible things and she just keeps going. Being "Not Quite Right" slows her down a bit but she keep pushing through. She is courageous and funny, most times unintentionally, and readers will fall in love with her immediately.

    She is surrounded by her grandpa and many friends who are all truly unique. They all have her best interests at heart and go to great lengths to protect her from remembering too much too fast. It is too hard to pick a favorite.

    The story is set is the south in the 70's and I believe the author portrayed the issues of the time quite well.

    This a heartwarming story that will hold your attention from the first page to the last. I was surprised at how quickly I read this book and all in one sitting. I was almost sorry to reach the end. The Land of a Hundred Wonders in a perfect place to escape.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 1, 2012

    This might be my favorite Lesley Kagen book! A wonderful good v

    This might be my favorite Lesley Kagen book! A wonderful good vs. evil story told through the eyes of a charming protagonist. Loved it!

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  • Posted November 27, 2011

    Love this author

    I discovered this author by chance and have now read 3 of her books. So much of it reminded me of when I was younger. She is so good about telling stories through the eyes of young kids, and how they would think. Love the way they talk too. Just fun books to read.

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  • Posted July 27, 2011

    "Quite Right" Lesley Kagen - Bravo!!

    Author, Lesley Kagen embodies a true talent for bringing her characters to life. I truly feel like I knew each character, at one time or another throughout my life. Two of them, Gibby and Billy, I will remember for a lifetime. Gibby is "NQR" due to a brain injury. You will love who she is and the miracles she views from everyday life. Gibby has the uncanny ability to remember her favorite sayings, although they are "NQR" as well. (I laughed so hard that I had tears streaming down my face.) Billy is Gibby's saving grace with a heart so tender, that he sees her for who she is and loving her despite her short comings. Growing up in the sixties and seventies I could relate to the innocence and innocence lost during that time in history. The corruption, the racism and secrets...we've come along way and yet have so far to go. Thank you Lesley!

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  • Posted August 23, 2010

    what a disappointment!

    I loved Whistling in the Dark and thought I hit upon an author I could count on. But, I tried reading this book and it was so boring, seemed to go nowhere, characters I didn't care about, and 60 pages in, I put the book down and knew I wouldn't finish.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2010

    avid book reader

    I borrowed this book from the library and returned it before the due date. I found this book hard to get into and did not finish it. I would not reccommend it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 23, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A great read! Loved it!

    This book is great! It has everything... humor, romance, drama, a chase!, and heartbreak! I am a little disappointed in the ending... didn't really flow with the book but it was still good. I would and have recommeneded this book to others!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

    WOW!

    I absolutely loved this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2008

    This book was QR!

    Lesley Kagen has such a wonderful sense of humor and does a great job narrating this story from the view point of a girl that has a brain injury. The story takes lots of twists and turns, but is entertaining from the first page to the last.

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    Posted October 28, 2008

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    Posted October 8, 2010

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    Posted December 11, 2010

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    Posted September 27, 2011

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