A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2003
The Short Version:
In 1906 young Mattie Gokey is working at a hotel in an upstate New York when the death of a guest leads her to seek the truth about the murder and reevaluate her own dreams along the way.
Why I Read It:
This has been on my TBR list for ages because many people I know have enjoyed it.
From the publisher:
Mattie Gokey has a word for everything. She collects words, stores them up as a way of fending off the hard truths of her life, the truths that she can’t write down in stories.
The fresh pain of her mother’s death. The burden of raising her sisters while her father struggles over his brokeback farm. The mad welter of feelings Mattie has for handsome but dull Royal Loomis, who says he wants to marry her. And the secret dreams that keep her going–visions of finishing high school, going to college in New York City, becoming a writer.
Yet when the drowned body of a young woman turns up at the hotel where Mattie works, all her words are useless. But in the dead woman’s letters, Mattie again finds her voice, and a determination to live her own life.
Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, this coming-of-age novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.
I finally picked this one up after it had been on my TBR list for years. After I read and enjoyed Donnelly’s adult historical fiction book, The Tea Rose I started hearing my friends tell me how much they’d liked this young adult book of hers. For some reason I hadn’t read it but the January Long-Awaited Reads event inspired me to get it from the library.
It’s a good combination of historical fiction, murder mystery and coming of age story and I enjoyed it a lot.
Mattie is an easy character to like. She’s smart and kind and overwhelmed with responsibility for a girl her age. After her mother’s death the day to day running of the household on their farm falls on Mattie’s shoulders. At the same time she’s being encouraged by her teacher and her own heart’s desire to continue her education and go to college in New York City.
I enjoyed Mattie’s story and I also enjoyed the mystery of the death of the young drowning victim.