Tag Archives: Farming

A Northern Light

Title: A Northern Light

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Summary: Unlike many girls in the Great North Woods at the turn of the century, Mattie Gokey is gifted: She is a writer so talented she has been offered a full scholarship to Barnard College. But how can she leave? Since her mamma died, it has been Mattie’s job to run the farmhouse and look after her sisters, neighbors and her gruff pa. To earn money for the family, Mattie goes to work at the Glenmore Hotel. One day she is handed a bundle of letters by a guest named Grace, who asks her to burn them. Hours later, Grace’s body is found in the lake, and the boyfriend who took her out rowing is nowhere to be found. As Mattie begins to read the letters and piece together the mystery, she also begins to answer the questions of her own life: Should she stay and marry her gorgeous neighbor Royal, who doesn’t understand her love of books and words, or take her chances in New York and chase her dream of becoming a writer?

The book is based on a real murder case that was the basis for the classic novel An American Tragedy and the film A Place in the Sun. But it is the fictional Mattie’s struggle to define herself in an era where girls had so few choices and little say in their futures that will linger long after the final page has been turned.

Who will like this book?: People who like fiction based on true stories. Fans of authentic characters with a lot of depth and honesty.

If you like this, try this: An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. For another unforgettable, beautifully written historical novel featuring a book-loving heroine, try The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian


Title: Mudbound

Author: Hillary Jordan

Summary: Halfway into Hillary Jordan’s debut novel, Mudbound, I knew that she had earned a place on my “Must Read Authors” list. This is a wonderful, beautiful, brutal, tragic, richly painted novel that is worthy of all of its high praise.

It’s the Mississippi Delta in the 1940’s. The story opens as Henry and his brother Jamie are trying desperately to bury the body of a man, their father. Slowly, the reader is drawn into the lives of the six people who set in motion the events that lead to this man’s death. Laura and Henry McCallan are struggling with day-to-day life on a farm; Hap and Florence Jackson, the black sharecroppers who live and work on the McCallans’ farm, must deal with racism and the unforgiving conditions of the labor they face every day. Each family awaits the return of a war hero, and each family is brought to its knees as their wounded veterans come home and try to resume a “normal” life.

Before it was even published, Mudbound was the winner of a literary prize, the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Barbara Kingsolver, the founder of the award, had this to say of Hillary Jordan: “her characters walked straight out of 1940’s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are still with me.”

And they are still with me as well.

Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian