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August 8, 2009

A Northern Light

Filed under: *AWESOME BOOKS!!!,A — thebookreviews @ 7:33 pm
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A Northern Light

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Page Length: 386

Reading Level:  7

Genre:  Mystery, Romance, Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The intelligent 16 year old girl, Mattie Gokey, secretly chooses a “word of the day” from a hidden dictionary. She is a bright student and aspires to finish high school, to go to college in New York, and to become a writer. However, in 1906 women were not expected to do such things. They were expected to marry, have babies, and take care of the house/farm. She uses her “word of the day” to escape the hardships she endures on a daily basis. Her father, despite the request of her teacher, refuses to let her entertain the thought of going to college. Due to the recent death of her mother, she must bare the burden of raising her sisters while her father struggles over his farm. Mattie, a self-proclaimed plain-girl, finds herself attracted to handsome Royal Loomis. To Mattie’s surprise, Royal is also attracted to her but he has no interest in reading books. He only has an interest in farming. Although she enjoys his company, they are polar opposites when it comes to obtaining fulfillment within a romantic relationship. The plot thickens when a guest at the Glenmore Hotel where Mattie works, Grace Brown, drowns. Earlier in the day, Grace had given Mattie a bundle of letters to burn. Mattie forgot about the letters and was too busy to burn them. Her curiosity got the better of her and she began to read them; ultimately inferring from the letters and piecing together the identity of Grace’s male guest that Grace may have been murdered. Does Mattie get to go to college or is she forced to marry Royal? Was Grace Brown really murdered? If so, who murdered her? Who was really her teacher? Does Mattie become a writer herself or is she trapped working on her father’s farm?  Does she keep her promise to her dead mother?

REVIEW: This book is a truly coming-of-age novel intertwined with romance, mystery, and history. The author through her words is able to evoke the emotions felt by Mattie as she grapples with life’s difficult choices. At a time in Mattie’s life when all she wants to do is read any book she can find and save money for college, she feels she must choose what is best for her family. Mattie is also haunted by the promise she made to her dying mother: that Mattie never leave her father and younger siblings. By reading Grace’s letters, Mattie finds her voice and a determination to live her own life. The many subplots throughout the story provide the reader with constant curiosity as to what is going to happen next. The reader finds oneself constantly asking the question, “What would I do, if I was in this situation?” Therefore, this thought provoking book leaves the reader with an unintentional examination of self.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  setting, characterization, plot, theme, compare/contrast, cause/effect, point of view, inference, writer’s motive, voice, mood, and tone, word choice, audience and purpose

RELATED BOOKS:   An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser,  East by Edith Pattou, Just in Case by Meg Rosoff,  The Tailor’s Daughter: A Novel by Janice Graham,  A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Boyle Trilogy) by Libba Bray, Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor.  Books by the same author: A Gathering Light, The Tea Rose, Humble Pie, The Winter Rose

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: A Place in the Sun (1991), An American Tragedy (2007), October Sky (1999), Friday Night Lights (2004)


REVIEWED BY:  Tammy Leitzel

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