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Gathering Light [Hardcover]

4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
When summer comes to the North Woods, time slows down. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Young Woman Finds Her Voice April 7 2006
A Northern Light is the story of a murder. A true-story murder of a beautiful woman named Grace Brown occurring in the fancy Glenmore Hotel in New York City in 1906; a murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's epic novel, An American Tragedy. That is what the back cover of this book says, though it greatly misleads the curious reader. A Northern Light is really the story of a young woman named Mattie Gokey---a sixteen-year-old girl from a destitute family living on a farm in rural New York---who finds her voice in the world through writing with her beloved words, and her struggle to deal with hardships left for those still on earth after someone dies.
Mathilda Gokey, called Mattie or Matt, does not live a very luxurious or happy life. Mattie's mother has died, leaving her father completely grief-stricken. Mattie's older brother Lawton has left the farm for good, and Mattie's father is left to run a farm and care for four girls. The jobs which were once Lawton's, are now Mattie's; the family often struggles terribly to deal with their lack of money. Mattie tries to make things the best for her younger sisters---Abby, Lou, and Beth. But it still seems like no use.
Mattie dearly wishes hat she could attend college, for she is a very talented writer that loves words---she even picks a word of the day out of the dictionary--and even though she has received a scholarship to Barnard College, her father refuses to allow Mattie to go. It is because he's afraid he will lose just one more family member, for the third time. But even with the scholarship, Mattie does not have enough money for the train fare and tickets. So she decides to work at the Glenmore Hotel for the summer, to earn enough money to go to Barnard College in September.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rich in detail, character and plot Jan. 22 2004
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. Highly recommended.
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By Linda
I finished A Northern Light in a weekend; what a pleasure! I don't fit the intended young adult demographic, but I've always had an interest in children's and young adult literature as a result of my many careers.
Ms. Donnelly brilliantly captures the boom era of the 1900s New York Adirondack Mountain region. The story of Mattie Gokey, a young woman coming of age and struggling with difficult life choices, is a familiar story to most female readers. Her determination to become a writer reminded me of my own career aspirations. I found myself holding my breath and sighing with relief when Maddie finally decided her fate.

A Northern Light will stir passion, and even raise ire, among the young women who are fortunate to discover this beautiful book. Many readers will recognize themselves in Mattie, her teacher, Miss Wilcox, or even Weaver, her friend and fellow wordsmith. Most importantly, A Northern Light can be appreciated by readers of all ages, not just young adults, who appreciate great writing. A truly enjoyable read; I hope there's a sequel on the way.
Also recommended: The Lightkeeper's Daughter, Witch Child
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5.0 out of 5 stars A+ June 19 2003
Jennifer Donelly writes a compelling, lively and interesting story with wonderful characters and a fascinating setting - 1906 in the Adirondacks (or as the protagonist, poor farm girl Mattie Gokey calls it, the North Woods).
Since Mattie's mother died, she's had to juggle roles as sister, housekeeper, student, breadwinner; and now that her handsome neighbour Royal seems to be showing puzzling interest in her - future wife. Mattie loves nothing more than reading, writing poems and stories and picking out a new word every day from the dictionary her mother bought with hard earned money before she died. But Mattie is tied down by the need to take care of her sisters, father and a promise she made, but desperately wants to break.
This story is told in flashbacks from Mattie's current job as hired help at the Glenmore Resort for wealthy tourists, where the entire town is caught up in the intrigue that follows the drowning death of a guest. Mattie knows something no else does, but is torn between loyalties to old promises and what others want her to do, and what she knows is right and she owes to herself.
You will not be able to put down this fantastic and well crafted read.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Read
After reading Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, I knew I had to read A Northern Light. As was expected, the book did not disappoint. I absolutely loved it. Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2012 by Tammy Bramley
4.0 out of 5 stars A Northern Light
"A Gathering Light" is the title of this book in the United Kingdom, but here in North America it is titled "A Northern Light" why the change of title, I have no idea. Read more
Published on Nov. 6 2008 by Pauline
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting!
I've recently finished this book and was totally absorbed by it. Two stories run on parallel grounds. Read more
Published on Sept. 1 2007 by I LOVE BOOKS
5.0 out of 5 stars A CLASSIC!!!!
LINE -- SUSPENSE -- LOVE -- CHOICES TO BE MADE --- just a wonderful book.
Published on Dec 13 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book! i couldn't put it down!
I found this book at the school library's new book shelf, i decided to read it and i was so glad that i did. Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by LuvErOfaNiMaLS
5.0 out of 5 stars Not only for young adults...
I read this book after reading Jennifer Donnelly's novel "The Tea Rose"(which I loved). I enjoyed the characters and the their voices, but I especially loved the focus on words... Read more
Published on May 22 2004 by Gr8Smokies
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book-Not for Kids
I think this book is wonderful. I read it three times because it is so delightfully delightful. However, kids should'nt read it. It has some inapropriate stuff in it. Read more
Published on April 9 2004 by Glenmore Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Voice of true independence
This story is about Mattie, who gets accepted into a college, and she has to decide if she wants to stay with her family and friends or to pursue her dreams of becoming a... Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by Amanda H.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Northern Light Customer Review
I thought that a Northern Light was an awesome book. It was filled with engrossing characters and I just couldn't put it down. Read more
Published on March 18 2004 by wazzupdawg22
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely unable to put it down!!
I have read many, many, many books. I can also think of many that I'd write a review about, but this is the first I've actually taken the time to write. Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2004 by Renee C. Miller
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