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A Northern Light


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About the Author

Jennifer Donnelly is the author of eleven novels including the Waterfire Saga, The Tea Rose series, Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, and A Northern Light. She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History. Twitter: @JenWritesBooks


Gr 8 Up-Mattie Gokey, 16, a talented writer, promised her dying mother that she would always take care of her father and younger siblings. She is stuck on a farm, living in near poverty, with no way of escaping, even though she has been accepted at Barnard College. She promises to marry handsome Royal Loomis even though he doesn't appear to love her. Now, Mattie has promised Grace Brown, a guest at the Adirondack summer resort where she works, to burn two bundles of letters. Then, before she can comply, Grace's body is found in the lake, and the young man who was with her disappears, also presumably drowned. This is a breathtaking tale, complex and often earthy, wrapped around a true story. In 1906, Grace Brown was killed by Chester Gillette because she was poor and pregnant, and he hoped to make his fortune by marrying a rich, society girl. Grace's story weaves its way through Mattie's, staying in the background but providing impetus. The protagonist tells her tale through flashback and time shifts from past to present. Readers feel her fears for her friend Weaver-the first freeborn child in his family-when he is beaten for being black and his college savings are stolen, and enjoy their love of words as they engage in language duels. Finally, they'll experience her awakening when she realizes that she cannot live her life for others. Donnelly's characters ring true to life, and the meticulously described setting forms a vivid backdrop to this finely crafted story. An outstanding choice for historical-fiction fans, particularly those who have read Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Davis adds to an audiobook oeuvre distinguished by her skill at portraying young heroines with great emotional depth. Here she steps into the character of 16-year-old Mattie Gokey, the determined, likable protagonist of Donnelly's first YA novel, inspired by a 1906 murder in New York state. A gifted student, Mattie has an ear for words and a desire to become a writer. But college-and a writing career-seem out of the question, as Mattie has promised to fulfill her late mother's dying wish: that Mattie never leave her father and younger siblings. The picture brightens when Mattie's family comes to support her dreams and she takes work at a hotel for the summer. However, when a young woman staying at the hotel drowns mysteriously, after secretly entrusting Mattie with a packet of her letters, the summer and Mattie's future take an intriguing turn. With her soft, slightly girlish voice, Davis makes Mattie thoroughly believable. Via Davis's interpretation, listeners will be captivated by Mattie's humor and wit as well as by the conflicted feelings she experiences on the cusp of womanhood. Davis's roster of distinct supporting characters helps anchor the story in its time and place, and the tale's true-crime roots add both suspense and gravity to the proceedings. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Jennifer Donnelly has populated her first young-adult novel with a community of distinctive characters who ring rich and true."
--New York Times Book Review (09/21/2003)

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