Tag Archives: A Northern Light

The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes & A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly


I just read The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes. This was not my favorite of Marian Keyes’ fun escapist single women novels, but it was a fast read and kept my mind off being sick and all the busy library stuff going on with the summer reading program.

I also had the pleasure of reading A Northern Light which is a new historical fiction book by Jennifer Donnelly. This is a must read for all book people, word people, writing people, dictionary people, history people, women’s movement people, poetry people, animal people, love story people etc. You get the picture? The setting is upstate New York, near Old Forge, in the early 1900s. Mattie is the oldest daughter and bound by a promise to her now dead mother that she will stay with the family and take care of her Father and siblings. But Mattie is an excellent writer and a great lover of words. Her teacher encourages her to take the New York state Regents exams to be able to apply to college. Mattie is torn apart by her desire to continue her education and become a real writer. She feels obligated to take care of the family since her Mother’s death. She also has a love interest, that handsome Royal Loomis. When his arms are around her she couldn’t be happier. Will Mattie choose her family or an education? Please read this wonderful novel to find out!

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly


Donnelly, Jennifer. A Northern Light. Clarion, 2019 (reprint). ISBN 978-0358063681 416 pp. $9.99


Inspired by Dreiser’s classic-based-on-a-true-story An American Tragedy (New American Library, 1925), this historical novel about a 1906 murder in upstate NY is told from the point of view of young Mattie Gokey, a hotel waitress and aspiring college student saddled with caring for her motherless siblings and holding the family together. Mattie is spunky, resourceful, and truth-seeking, surrounded by believable, complex and dynamic friends, family and neighbors. She is best friends with a fellow word-lover and black boy whose mouth and temper sometimes get him into trouble. And she can’t believe that the most handsome and popular boy in town is courting her.

Mattie’s strong voice captures the period closely – neighbors work together to help one another, blacks are still not seen as full citizens by many, and girls aren’t always given their due. When a hotel guest slips Mattie a packet of letters to destroy, Mattie, a writer and bibliophile, can’t do it. The letters reveal the love and desperation of a sad young woman and call into question the circumstances of her death. They are the call to arms that Mattie needs to pursue her own dreams.

The author’s own passion and empathy for the victim of a famous murder case shines through this gem of a book. It is well-deserving of it’s Printz honor award, and is a quality book that is engaging to teens and will win a nod of approval from teachers as well–AND meet curriculum frameworks!

Review by Beth Gallaway

Another take on A Northern Light.