Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Nothern Light

A Nothern Light -- by Jennifer Donnelly

Jennifer Donnelly does a wonderful job with this coming of age story set in the Adirondacks in 1906 about Mattie, a 16-year-old girl who on the one hand has made promises to her dying mother but on the other hand wants to follow her own dreams. Mattie is a talented writer who has ambitions of a higher education. Mattie is a wonderful character who you root for through every page. Mattie's family situation is not ideal, she lives on a rural farm in poverty taking care of her father and younger siblings. As the farm is failing Mattie takes a job at a summer resort in order to save money to help her family and ultimately help achieve her own dreams of education.

While working at the summer resort her story becomes intertwined with the real-life story of Grace Brown, a young woman who is found dead at the resort that Mattie is working at. Grace's beau is also missing and presumed dead. All of this forces Mattie to deal with yet another promise. It is through a packet of letters that Grace has given to Mattie with the promise that she will "burn them" that Mattie begins to find out who she is and what is really important. She also finds out more about Grace and what really happened.

While the book goes back and forth between Grace's letters and Mattie's life we see how Mattie deals with poverty, feminism, and racism. The author does a wonderful job with the language of the book and the description of the characters. You really feel like you are a part of the book and the early 1900's.

This was a book that I didn't want to put down, nor did I want to forget about either Grace Brown or Mattie. As a woman this book empowered me. I also found myself thinking of others who I felt would benefit from reading it. Definitely a pass on book.

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