Now I know I usually review new releases, but after reading Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, I put her other books on my to-be-read list. Summer vacation finally allowed me to finish some of my to-be-read pile that have been sitting in for too long. Reading A Northern Light reminded me why I found Jennifer Donnelly to be so brilliant in Revolution. I’m still unhappy that Revolution (and Donnely) was not awarded the Printz award last year but am glad she received the honor for this book along with so many other accolades.
Set in 19
06, Mattie is the oldest daughter of a large farm family. With her mother recently deceased, the burden of running the farm with her father, falls on Mattie. Mattie dreams of finishing high school and getting to attend college in New York City. Her family’s precarious financial situation, as well as the reliance on her for meals, taking care of her siblings, and community expectations weigh heavily on Mattie in a way that makes her dream seem impossible. With the encouragement of a classmate, African-American Weaver, and a school teacher, Matty writes stories and poetry in any free moment she has, and practices for her placement exams with word duels.
The story begins with an accident at the summer camp where Mattie is working and alternates between the “present” and chapters that introduce to Mattie’s background and life. Like Revolution, Donneley seamlessly transitions from the present to the past and back again. The murder of a young girl, her letters that she left with Mattie, her courtship by a young man who does not love her, her frustration of both gender and race, all play major roles in the book.
I can not say enough good things about the book. As I read, I wondered if Donnely wrote the two parallel stories and then inner wove them, or if she drafted in the format the book is set in. I feel the need to write and her about find out.
I have added Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy to my to-read list since I understand that the backstory of the young woman who drowns and the young man who disappears, which is based on true events, also is the backdrop for that classic that I have never read.
Another review: Book Smugglers