Mattie is struggling to see how she can find a way out of her life. Her mother is gone, leaving her as the “mother” figure in the house with an angry father, and an absent brother. Mattie longs to leave her humble home and go to the big city…New York City to be exact. But the year is 1906, and young women living by themselves anywhere, let alone a big city is still fairly new, and Mattie’s father wants no part of it. Mattie is desperate to earn money of her own so she can have some choices.
She finally convinces her father to let her work at a nearby hotel for the summer, the Glenmore, where she meets a young woman named Grace Brown. Over a few days, Mattie comes to realize that Grace isn’t on a happy vacation with her young man, but rather seems distraught about something. When Grace gives Mattie a packet of letters and asks her to burn them, Mattie isn’t sure what to think.
But then Grace and her beau turn up missing – on a calm lake after going for a boat ride. Only Grace’s body is recovered and after Mattie begins reading Grace’s letter to her beau, she begins to suspect that the young man wasn’t as committed to Grace as appearances would have others believe.
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly show just how limited women and girls lives were at the turn of the century, and how everything they wanted became a fight. Mattie has to reach inside herself for the strength to let go so she doesn’t meet the same fate as Grace, or remain trapped in her beginnings with her family.
Recommended for 8th grade and up.
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