When the Great Depression struck, Ellie's father lost his tailoring business and her mother had no students. They lost their business and house in town, and started a new life on Echo Mountain. Esther and her mother hated the change; Samuel was so young he didn't know otherwise; and Ellie (12) embraced this new, simpler way of living and all that her father was teaching her. But now even she was struggling.
Eight months ago, her father was struck in the head by a falling tree, and has been in a coma ever since. Everyone feels the loss, but no one more than Ellie, whom Esther and her mother blame for the accident. No longer content to wait and see if her father will wake up, Ellie decides to "do" something. That ultimately leads her to secretly visit Cate, aka "the hag," who lives higher on the mountain. When she gets there, Cate is unconscious and needs medical attention. This isn't going to be a secret for very long!
This is a lovely story that despite its 1930s setting will have timeless appeal. Although the story is set in Maine, it is reminiscent of Appalachian life as well, and could just as easily be North Carolina or West Virginia.
Ellie is the linchpin to the story, but the author has also woven in themes of friendship, perseverance, accepting change, and courage (not just Ellie), and balanced them with a lovely mystery with just the right touches of suspense, surprise, and humor. I especially love the magic of her relationship with Larkin, as well as her dedication to natural medicines and cures.
Recommended for readers who like stories of triumph over tragedy. This is a "quiet" saga that would make an awesome family read aloud.
Be prepared to sit a spell as you soak in this lovely story of family, friendship, and discovering your true self.
Overall, none. Very early in the story, Ellie drowns a puppy in water to get his heart going. Some readers may find that very shocking. There is also some violence; the descriptions of Cate's injuries are detailed.
This is a coming-of-age historical fiction story about family, friendship, and acceptance.
This is a story that can easily pique a reader's interest not just in herbal and natural medicine, but the history of medicine, as well. Although the Great Depression sets the stage for the book, the plot is built around one family's efforts to survive change individually and collectively. These are characters who can spark great discussions. Here are a few to get you started.
- Will Esther accept life on the mountain now that her father is awake?
- What about Ellie's mother? What do you think she will do now?
- Why do you think Ellie described herself and Samuel as "wild?" What words would your readers use?
- Where do you think the prejudices started (mountain or town folk)? Do you think any of the events in the story can change that?
12 and Up
10 and Up
Borrow. This is a lovely story and a great family read-aloud. It's just not one I'd keep on my permanent shelf.