Title: A Northern Light
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
The story is told in a rather strange way; there are two concurrent stories, both with Mattie as the lead character. One takes place during the summer as she works at an inn for tourists, earning wages serving tables and cleaning linens. The body of a drowned woman is found in the lake by the inn, and Mattie recalls her brief conversation with the woman prior to her death, and struggles with what to do about the stack of letters the woman instructs Mattie to burn for her. This piece intertwines with life from the preceeding spring leading up to the summer at the inn and the investigation of the body. I listened to the story as an audiobook, so that may have led to a little of the confusion on my part as it took a minute to grasp the timeframe of each section.
Donnelly's writing reminded me at times of Barbara Kingsolver; the prose is beautiful, intelligent and well- crafted. Kingsolver has a way of describing setting that becomes integral to a story, and that's what I found in A Northern Light. Some aspects of the story were truly heartbreaking, and the whole time I kept hoping Mattie would find her way to her dreams.
If you like historical fiction and stories about families overcoming hardships, this is a great book. It won a Printz award and is noted on a lot of book lists. The storyline about the drowned woman is based on a true story, which is detailed in a note by the author at the end of the book. Well worth the read. Actor Hope Davis narrates the audiobook and she is phenomenal. I would listen to any audiobook she reads, regardless of genre!
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