This is a beautiful work of Christian literature. The story opens in June of 1894 when 3-year-old Berta becomes an older sister to Glenna. From the start, Berta feels displaced and rebuffs all efforts on the part of her immediate family to draw her in. Glenna, a ray of sunshine with light hair to match is adept at peace making, peace keeping and generally trying to assuage her older sister's resentments.
Poor Berta can never let her grudges go long enough to enjoy life. When Glenna marries and moves to another town, Berta closes herself off from everyone. When their father dies, Berta withers in resentment.
Things change for the better when Glenna returns for a visit with her then 2-year-old son James in tow. The family reconnects, the sisters, mother and their maternal grandmother. Berta Rose (Rosie) was born, some 4 years after James. Unlike Berta, he embraces his new role as a brother and delights in Rosie.
In time, tragedy strikes. James, then 4 falls from a tree and dies from a closed head injury. Glenna's third child, Anna is born shortly thereafter. In time, Glenna and Berta have a heart-to-heart. Glenna says she prays to God daily to help her feel compassion instead of envy; she is not the naturally sunny personality people think she is. Slowly, Berta's emotional armor is chipped away. Once she accepts herself and lets go of her past resentments and allows herself to love Glenna unconditionally, then she is receptive to the love of a persistent suitor.
I think this is a wonderful story about love and redemption and prayer. I like the way God is mentioned throughout the book and the reminders of how important God is to those who believe in and serve Him. As a Christian, I think this book beautifully illustrates compassion from a Christian standpoint.
Berta reminds me of a Beatle song - 1968's "Blackbird." Once she took her broken wings and learned to fly, she saw that flying with the bluebirds (Paul McCartney wrote "Bluebird" years after his Beatle classic, "Blackbird") made for a happier life.