Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Northern Light (copy)

"No one is a failure who has books." Oops, that's supposed to read, “No one is a failure who has friends.” Wait a minute! Aren't they one in the same!?!

I met a new friend, in yet another book, that I admire and care for deeply this week. Her name is Matilda Gokey, or Mattie, and she lives in the North Woods of New York state. She is 16 and she is 17 for her story travels two separate timelines; one story occurs as she carries out chores on her family’s homestead, and the other story takes place at the Glenmore Inn where she toils as a maid.

While living with the family, Mattie chooses a word for the day from her deceased mother’s prized dictionary. (All stories about Mattie’s time with the family begin with the word of the day separated phonetically in the chapter title.) These words are her salvation as she toils caringly for her three younger sisters and overworked father.

Her time at Glenmore is punctuated by the untimely death of an inn guest. Grace Brown is found at dusk floating on the camp’s lake. She and her friend Carl Grahm, or is it Chester Gillette, took a little skiff out after lunch and haven’t been seen since. Well, that is before Grace’s body turns up.

In these parallel stories, Mattie has made promises to the recently dead. For her mother, she promises to look after the family, and for Grace Brown she promises to burn the letters written between Grace and Chester, oh, I mean Carl. Did you know it was a sin to break a death bed promise? Mattie just knows she will come face-to-face with their ghosts if she does.


Jennifer Donnelly has written an extremely engaging story in A Northern Light. This award winner, for the young adult crowd, is perfect for a mother/daughter book club. Given the daughter is mature and understands the facts of life. Think of this book as a Laura Ingalls story for mature audiences.

If the second story sounds familiar, that is because it is based on the 1906 murder which inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.

This was one of those books I carried everywhere and didn’t want to put down. Not even when I was called to supper. Now, you know it’s a special friend, when you are willing to pass up food!

Note: This concudes my reading for the Damn Yankee Challenge. Thanks Sage and Ed for the funny! ;D

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