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Location: Vero Beach, Florida, United States

My name is Pat and I live in Florida. My skin will never be smooth again and my hair will never see color. I enjoy collecting autographs and playing in Paint Shop Pro.,along with reading and writing. Sometimes, I enjoy myself by doing volunteer "work" helping celebrities at autograph shows. I love animals and at one time I did volunteer work for Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Northern Light

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books; edition (April 1, 2003)
ISBN-10: 0152167056 Review

It's 1906 and 16-year-old Mattie Gokey is at a crossroads in her life. She's escaped the overwhelming responsibilities of helping to run her father's brokendown farm in exchange for a paid summer job as a serving girl at a fancy hotel in the Adirondacks. She's saving as much of her salary as she can, but she's having trouble deciding how she's going to use the money at the end of the summer. Mattie's gift is for writing and she's been accepted to Barnard College in New York City, but she's held back by her sense of responsibility to her family--and by her budding romance with handsome-but-dull Royal Loomis. Royal awakens feelings in Mattie that she doesn't want to ignore, but she can't deny her passion for words and her desire to write.

At the hotel, Mattie gets caught up in the disappearance of a young couple who had gone out together in a rowboat. Mattie spoke with the young woman, Grace Brown, just before the fateful boating trip, when Grace gave her a packet of love letters and asked her to burn them. When Grace is found drowned, Mattie reads the letters and finds that she holds the key to unraveling the girl's death and her beau's mysterious disappearance. Grace Brown's story is a true one (it's the same story told in Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and in the film adaptation, A Place in the Sun), and author Jennifer Donnelly masterfully interweaves the real-life story with Mattie's, making her seem even more real.

Mattie's frank voice reveals much about poverty, racism, and feminism at the turn of the twentieth century. She witnesses illness and death at a range far closer than most teens do today, and she's there when her best friend Minnie gives birth to twins. Mattie describes Minnie's harrowing labor with gut-wrenching clarity, and a visit with Minnie and the twins a few weeks later dispels any romance from the reality of young motherhood (and marriage). Overall, readers will get a taste of how bitter--and how sweet--ordinary life in the early 1900s could be. Despite the wide variety of troubles Mattie describes, the book never feels melodramatic, just heartbreakingly real. (14 and older) --Jennifer Lindsay

Well, I certainly couldn't describe this book any better than they did on Amazon so I am glad to put it here on my blog.  Of course it leaves nothing for me to review but that's ok too lol..

I did have a confusing time with the beginning of the book... well.. half the book! I even called my "sis" in England to ask what she thought about the first part of the book. 

Each chapter changed and I found I didn't know where I was.  One minute Mattie (the main character) was being told she could NOT go work at the Glenmore... and the next chapter read as if she WAS working at the Glenmore!    I think I was catching on when I called Cath but with all the great reviews on this I wasn't expecting it to be hard to follow.  I guess I am used to reading things in succession... This is Mattie.. this is her life.. and when she went to work at Glenmore this is what happened.   But it kept jumping: this is now... this was before.. and back again without any indication that this was what was happening.

I also thought this story was to be more about the murdered girl and that seemed to be put on a back burner to me.  The book was more about Mattie.. which I will say that when it got to the last 1/3 of the book the story picked up and got a lot more interesting as she neared her "final decisions based on the dead lady, Grace".   But it never got comfortable (figuring out "when" we were: in the past or present) until the last 1/3 of the book.  The story is excellent.  It was just confusing for me to read.

Of course I won't tell you the ending.. that would be mean!  But the author did keep you guessing up until the very end!

For those who think they may want to read this let me tell you: I am not the brightest bulb in the pack so, because I was confused (and stayed that way for 1/2 the book) doesn't mean YOU will.. which is obvious since other reviews don't mention having a difficult time as I did...  as I said it was an excellent story.

There are many passages that I probably should write here but I forgot to put a marker in the book.. this ONE I did though and I found it humorous so here it is:

Jeezum...What if God was a woman? Would the pope be out of work?  Would the president be a woman,too?  And the governor? And the sheriff?  And when people married, would the man have to honor and obey?  Would only women be allowed to vote?

(I personally liked the question about husbands be made to honor and obey! heh.. )


Blogger Cath said...

I'm glad you got to the end and hope you thought it was a worthwhile read. I loved all of Mattie's thoughts and observations and found her endlessly interesting and her opinions very thought provoking. She said things I felt too but had never put into words. And I love your quote, I'd forgotten that one. I think I'll have to buy my own copy to reread it at some stage.

I put a YouTube song on my LJ which I think might amuse you.

11:21 AM  
Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Interesting that this is the same story as Dreisers...! But obviously what makes it different is the character of the 16 year old working there in The Adorondics....! It sounds really good, Pat...

And I LOVE your book marks....You Did GOOD!

12:54 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Sounds like I have to have my head together to read this one...I guess it will have to wait! LOL

2:44 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

You know what, I'm really glad you said that--about the confusion of times. I tend to have a hard time with that kind of thing too. Not that I really mind it, I just have to work extra hard in getting it. ;) But I think it will definitely help me having that heads up before I read this. Which I've wanted to do for a long time. But probably still won't get to for ages. *sigh* Never enough time for all the awesome books out there.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

You know, I've had this one on my shelf for AGES and nothing has really made me want to pick it up before now...but now I'm really interested in reading it :D I'll have to do it soon. Maybe after OUaT. But like Debi, I'm glad you warned about the time changes...I have a hard time with stuff like that too! So I'll know to be aware of it!

1:36 AM  
Blogger DesLily said...

Cath: absolutely her thoughts were the whole book. i made the opposite choice as she did because I saw my mother raise to kids ALONE and alone seemed to not make her very happy..had I any sort of mentor or encouragement i'm not sure that would have been my decision

naomi: i think it was the views of one young girl and why she made the choices in life that she did. in this case the murder seems to be the subplot.

kathleen: well, of all the reviews I had no warning and I felt I had no idea what was going on! For me, there was no indication when you'd begin a chapter if you were in the present or past it became clearer later but had I not heard so many great reviews I might have said "I don't need this confusion". It was a good story, more for a female though

Debi: oh yes, after I talked with Cath and she told me what was going on it was much easier..but I still had a hard time grasping things because my head would be in the chapter I just read instead of the one I was reading.. duh.

Chris: with all the coming of age books you read this one hits home with "girls". just so you know lol

3:29 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

This was Cath's book of the year, wasn't it, for last year? So I'm glad you were able to enjoy it at the end. I have it on my to-buy list if I can find it up here, and now that I know it has a ghost it's moved up the very very long to-buy list!!!

9:50 AM  
OpenID josbookshelf said...

I've had this on my virtual wishlist for the longest time. But the end of your review has compelled me to get around to buying the book. If the book poses such questions, I think it is worth reading---just to open your mind to the what-ifs.

LOL on the question on "husbands be made to honor and obey".

11:02 AM  

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