A coming-of-age tale gets to the heart of family dynamics in the face of drastic life changes in the earliest days of the Depression.
Esther’s family moves to a farm in Wisconsin when her father loses his job. She comes to like farm life in spite of the hardships of a house with no electricity, an outhouse instead of a bathroom and lots of chores. But her overwhelming mission is to win her mother’s love by being obedient and helpful, for she believes that her mother doesn’t really love her, as she never hugs or kisses the girl and seems to recoil from any display of affection from her. Esther’s mother sees dangerous omens everywhere: in dreams, in the configuration of the moon and in small daily occurrences. Some of these beliefs cause even more painful difficulties in their relationship, as when she demands that Esther end a friendship when she sees the girl has a mole that is, to her, the mark of angry fairies. Esther is often confused, but she’s able to withstand everything that happens with resilience and a measure of hope. Every episode, whether ordinary or momentous, fills in a bit of the puzzle and leads Esther and readers to a growing understanding and acceptance of the nature of love and home and family ties. It’s a quiet, old-fashioned story; Bean’s black-and-white chapter heads reinforce its cozy, mid-20th-century feel.
Sensitive and tender. (Fiction. 8-12)