Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Recommendation: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

In A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly, the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy (as well as the Academy Award-winning movie, A Place in the Sun) serves as the backdrop for the story of Mattie Gokey, whose life is limited to caring for her motherless sisters and dreaming of a life as a writer.  When a young woman's drowned body is brought to the hotel where Mattie works, she becomes involved as she realizes that the young woman is the same person who had earlier given her a bundle of letters and asked her to destroy them.  Mattie is torn between keeping her promise and revealing the contents of the letters, which suggest that the woman has been murdered.  Mattie must also make a decision about her future, to follow her talent and dream of being a writer by accepting a scholarship to Barnard College or to stay where she is and comply with family expectations by marrying a local man. 

This story reminds us of the narrow choices that women had just 100 years ago and is especially interesting, due to the tie-in with a true story, as well as an earlier novel and movie.  As I mentioned in an earlier recommendation, Mattie reveals a growing understanding about when she comments that some books tell stories (showing you life as you want it to be) and some books tell truths (showing you life as it really is). The first kind, she says, makes you cheerful and contented and the second shakes you up.  I enjoyed A Northern Life for these insights into a budding writer, as well as the plot development and the mystery.

You can find A Northern Life at your local public library, or through Amazon.

Happy Reading!


laurie @ bargain hunting said...

This does sound like a good book. I am so behind on my reading right now (with a stack of books to be read waiting on my desk). Hopefully I'll get to this one soon. You left a comment on my post about the fireworks in Memphis. It is such a spectacular display, and you're right, if you can get a spot in one of those buildings on the river front, or in a boat on the river, you have a front-row seat. We were able to do that several times when I was a child. Just minutes ago, they announced on the news that due to lack of corporate sponsors, Memphis would not have the firework display this year! I've lived within an hour of Memphis for almost 60 years, and I have never known of them to not have the fireworks. laurie

Annie Joy said...

That's disappointing about the fireworks. I also remember going to the Cotton Carnival when I was a kid. One year, I heard a great new singer named Pat Boone! We only get to Memphis about once a year now; I always look forward to it.

Diane said...

I've been anxious to read this Donnelly book; thanks for sharing your thoughts Annie.

You will like The Murderer's Daughters I think. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Writing Without Periods! said...

I will have to try this book. I've been looking for something good and different to read this summer. Thanks.

The Blonde Duck said...

Popped in from Lady Bloggers! That sounds fascinating! I think we forget how many choices we have as women now days.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recently Read Fiction Favorites

  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  • Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
  • Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
  • Confessions of a Former Rock Queen by Kirk Bjornsgaard
  • Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
  • Faithful Place by Tana French
  • Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  • Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
  • Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow
  • Innocent by Scott Turow
  • My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
  • Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • Private Life by Jane Smiley
  • Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
  • Roses by Leila Meacham
  • Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
  • So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
  • South of Broad by Pat Conroy
  • That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
  • The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
  • The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
  • The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
  • The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg
  • The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
  • The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  • The Sky Took Him by Donis Casey
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
  • The Wind Comes Sweeping by Marcia Preston
  • Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
  • Wolf Hall by Hillary Mandel
  • World Without End by Ken Follett
  • Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

Favorite Nonfiction and Memoir

  • All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  • Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason by Nancy Pearl
  • Getting Over Getting Older by Lettie Cottin Pogrebin
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages by Katherine Ball Ross
  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  • The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin
  • The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl by Timothy Egan