It’s 1950, and like the boy Cyparissus, whom she’ll soon discover, little Patty Westerford falls in love with her pet deer. Hers is made of twigs, though it’s every bit alive. Also: squirrels from pairs of glued walnut shells, bears made of sweetgum balls, dragons from the pods of Kentucky coffee trees, fairies donning accord caps, and an angel whose pine-cone body needs only two holly leaves for wings.
She builds these creatures elaborate homes with pebbled front walks and mushroom furniture. She sleeps in beds fitted with magnolia-petal comforters. She watches over them, the guiding spirit of a kingdom whose towns nestle behind closed doors in the burls of trees. Knotholes turn into louvered windows, through which, squinting, she can see the inviting parlors of woody citizens, the lost kin of humans. She lives there with her creatures in the miniscule architecture of imagination, so much richer than the offerings of full-sized life. When her tiny wooden doll’s head twists off, she plants it in the garden, certain it will grow another body.