Publisher: Harcourt, 2003
Genre: Young Adult Literature
Source: A gift from my daughter, Candice
Reason For Reading: My blogging friend Jill strongly recommended it.
My Rating: A+
Awards Won: The Carnegie Medal, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a Printz Award Honor Book
A Northern Light is basically the story of two young women, one fictional and the other was real.
Mattie Cokey is the oldest of four daughters on a farm in the North Woods of New York in 1906. Her mother has died, the oldest son ran away and their father is barely making it on the farm.
Mattie is smart and creative. She loves books and words and writing stories. Mattie dreams of going to college and has actually been accepted on full scholarship to Barnard. The problems of fulfilling that dream are many. Money for a train ticket and books is one. Mattie also promised her mother she would stay and help run the farm and raise her sisters. And then there is the attentions of a very handsome neighbor.
Desperate for money, Mattie is allowed to take a summer job at a local resort hotel. One of the guests gives Mattie some letters and makes her promise to burn them. Later that day the guest, Grace Brown, accidently drowned, only it wasn’t an accident.
Over the course of the summer, so many things happened. Instead of burning the letters, Mattie reads them and realizes why Grace’s drowning was not an accident. Taking a good look at Grace’s life, helps Mattie look clearly at her own. She has to weigh the value of staying with the promises she made, or doing what is right for everyone she loves as well as for herself.
I absolutely loved this book.
- I loved the character of Mattie. I was pulling for her all the way. But I also loved her friend Weaver, her teacher Miss Wilcox, and many of the less prominent characters. They were all very real to me. I wish the author had written a sequel. I want to known how they are doing now after several years.
- I loved the issues raised in the book: racism, feminism, class, the responsibilities of family members to each other, and more. All issues were covered subtly as part of the story.
- I loved the way Mattie and her teacher loved literature. There are so many reference to classics literature.
- I loved the writing. So many passages were so beautiful I had to read them again. Some made me cry or smile. I had to force myself to take a break from reading to do normal things like eat and sleep. But, the story stayed with me, is still with me.
You might be interest to know that the author, Jennifer Donnelly was fascinated by the true story of the real Grace Brown. She researched the circumstances and found that letters between Grace Brown and her lover were discovered after her death, read in court and led to the lover’s conviction and execution. The author took the story of Grace Brown and built that true story into her fictional story. Honestly, it was hard to tell which one of the characters was real and which ones were fictional.
A Northern Light has won numerous awards for Young Adult Literature. (See above.) As time and space is running short here I won’t cover each of the awards. Just let me say it’s high on the lists of literary people around the world.
Check your local library for a copy or your local bookstore. A Northern Lightis also available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)