2004 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder.
Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly's astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.
I’m always fascinated by books that retell a story, whether it’s real or a famous fictional story, but from the perspective of someone other than the typical protagonist. In this case, the story is a murder in 1906, that inspired a book I’ve heard of, but didn’t know anything about (An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser).
In this case, the narrator is a young girl who is working at the hotel where the murder takes place. The story isn’t so much about the murder, though, as it is about this young girl and what her life is like. Quite a bit different than what kids have to deal with now. It’s easy to get down on “kids these days” and how entitled they are. I suppose that isn’t fair, because I’m sure that if they had to do the chores and help with the land and cooking and everything, they’d rise to the occasion, but sometimes….Sometimes, I think they need a reminder about how lucky they really are. I do, too, I suppose.
The book itself with was well written, although it jumped around in time quite a bit, and I wasn’t always sure at the beginning of each chapter where I was in time, that was a little disconcerting. Donnelly did a great job of capturing what life was like in the Adirondacks at the turn of the century, without being boring or preachy or anything like that.
Bottom line: good book, highly recommended.