This is a historical novel, set in 1906. It's gives us a good look at life in small american towns. This is a great YA book. It a fast page turning, slow paced book. I didn't find any places I wanted to rush through to get the chapter over because the characters are enjoyable even when we are wishing for different lives for them.
Mattie Gokey, at 16, is a talented writer. She promised her dying mother that she
would always take care of her father and younger siblings. She is stuck
on a farm, living in near poverty, with no way of escaping.
With the help of a teacher who can see Mattie has great writing skills, Mattie gets accepted at Barnard College. She is torn between her sense of responsibility to her family and her need to do more with her life. That summer she gets a job working as a serving girl at a fancy hotel in the Adirondacks. She splits her salary with her father and saves the rest for herself.
At the hotel, Mattie gets caught up in the disappearance of a young
couple who had gone out together in a rowboat. Mattie spoke with the
young woman, Grace Brown, just before the fateful boating trip, when
Grace gave her a packet of love letters and asked her to burn them. When
Grace is found drowned, Mattie reads the letters and finds that she
holds the key to unraveling the girl's death and her beau's mysterious
disappearance. Grace Brown's story is a true one and author Jennifer Donnelly weaves the real-life story with Mattie's, making Mattie seem even more real.
There is much, much more going on but I recommend reading the book instead of reading the rest in my review.