Mattie happens to be working at the hotel when Grace Brown, a real person whose story is told in An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, disappears during a boat ride. Shortly, before her disappearance, Grace handed Mattie some letters. This re-writing of history and mixing of fact with fiction is quite clever and it allows Grace's senseless death to serve a higher purpose in Mattie's journey.
Mattie has some decisions to make. She is struggling with a promise she made to her dying mother to look after her father and her siblings. Does she, a self proclaimed plain girl, marry Royal, the handsome and ambitious second son of neighboring farmer, who doesn't understand or care for her love of words, reading books and writing stories? Or does she selfishly focus on that love, the one which got her accepted to Barnard College, miles away in New York City.
I liked that Donnelly conspicuously incorporated vocabulary words into the novel, which we learned the meanings to via Mattie's word of the day games. I'm all for learning while we read. That simple device proves quite enjoyable.
Though, I prefer the more 'adult' books that Donnelly has written, this is a stunning coming of age novel that examines the themes of poverty, racism and feminism in a real and powerful way.
Final Take: 4.25/5
The Tea Rose - Lisa
The Winter Rose - Julie Lisa