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Publisher's Summary

Mattie Gokey has a word for everything. She collects words, stores them up as a way of fending off the hard truths of her life, the truths that she can't write down in stories.

The fresh pain of her mother's death. The burden of raising her sisters while her father struggles over his brokeback farm. The mad welter of feelings Mattie has for handsome but dull Royal Loomis, who says he wants to marry her. And the secret dreams that keep her going: visions of finishing high school, going to college in New York City, becoming a writer.

Yet when the drowned body of a young woman turns up at the hotel where Mattie works, all her words are useless. But in the dead woman's letters, Mattie again finds her voice, and a determination to live her own life.

Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, this coming-of-age novel effortlessly weaves romance, history and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.

©2003 Jennifer Donnelly; (P)2003 Random House, Inc., Listening Library, An Imprint Of Random House Audio Publishing Group

Critic Reviews

"Donnelly's characters ring true to life, and the meticulously described setting forms a vivid backdrop to this finely crafted story. An outstanding choice for historical-fiction fans." (School Library Journal)
"In an intelligent, colloquial voice that speaks with a writer's love of language and an observant eye, Mattie details the physical particulars of people's lives as well as deeper issues of race, class, and gender...Many teens will connect with Mattie's deep yearning for independence and for stories, like her own, that are frank, messy, complicated, and inspiring." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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    49
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    30
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Story

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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  • Overall

Well written fiction for adults and adolescents

I liked this book before I bought it because I'm familiar with the time and place in which it is set. But to my very pleasant surprise, I found that the real interest that this book holds is the way the author captures the process of discernment -- how we direct our own lives. How do we know what to do with our lives? Which promises do we have to keep and which ones can we break when circumstances change? The portrayal here of the process of moral deliberation really resonated with me, and I'm 42 -- well past the point of wondering what to do with my life. But I think adolescents will really get a lot out of this book. I expect my 9-year-old daughter will enjoy it in five or six years. (My son, not so much -- but maybe I'll change my mind about that as time goes by.)

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Good listen

I loved this book. It has enough mystery and intrigue to keep the adult listenter interested, but is also suitable for the younger listener as well. Highly enjoyable.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Excellent !

A wonderful coming-of-age story incorporating a true-life crime as a backdrop. Hope Davis reads this beautifully.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Gilded Age Honesty

This was a great story, historical fiction set in a wonderful and realistic Adirondack setting. Truly enjoyable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Wonderful!

This is an incredibly engaging story about a very real family. The descriptions of the time and places are wonderful. The characters are brought to life brilliantly by Hope Davis. You want to cheer for Mattie. She is brilliant. Part of it is based on a true story which adds another dimension. I was sorry when it ended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

a northern light

This is the best book I have listened to in years. Would like to hear more of her stories.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Roni
  • Ripon Ca
  • 06-09-17

phenomenal read

a moving story about true events and challenges in life that hold true, then, today and always. life is what you make of it

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

I wish I could meet Ms. Donnellly

I never review a book before finishing, but I'm up at 1 am, unable to turn my speaker off.
Once I started reading her books I knew this was another Elizabeth George or Kate Morton.
I really like the way she is telling this story in little blocks of different times in the character's life. Not historical, like months ahead or back. So, I'm up trying to find out how blah blah happened when blah blah happened so emphatically!
Every now & then a true talent comes along. I am so happy I discovered this author.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

An Adirondack Story

What did you like best about this story?

I love the Adirondacks, and this is a great Adorondack story, both capturing the history and the essence of the area..

Which character ??? as performed by Hope Davis ??? was your favorite?

Mattie Gokey is the lead character. She would have to be the favorite character, Her friend Weaver complements her in many ways and is also a well developed character.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When Mattie finds out that her family is sick and finds them all in very poor condition was one of the most moving sections of the book.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Jessica
  • Round Mountain, NV, USA
  • 05-30-12

Great story!

What did you love best about A Northern Light?

The main character of Mattie kept me enthralled.

What other book might you compare A Northern Light to and why?

Fair and Tender Ladies for believable, strong female characters in a time period book.

Which character – as performed by Hope Davis – was your favorite?

I loved them all.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me so sad for Mattie and her circumstances at times. At others I was so happy for her and especially when Royal gave her butterflies.

Any additional comments?

Can't wait to find other works by this author.