A foster child on the autism spectrum finds friendship and surprising connection in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
Katie, 11, doesn’t remember Moonbeam, the birth mother who left her the amethyst geode she treasures along with a message scrawled on a bookmark from a shop in Lunenburg, the picturesque, seaside town where Katie and her foster mother, Muzzy, are spending a month. Searching for Moonbeam, Katie feels a bond with another lonely girl, Catherine, whose French Protestant family immigrated here in the 1750s. Aggie, Catherine’s elderly descendant whom Katie helps out, shares her history and memorabilia, to which Aggie’s long-estranged sister, a reclusive carver, and two children with deep local roots add missing pieces. Along with Katie’s and Catherine’s, a third narrative thread concerns Catherine’s descendants; each touches on consequences of European settlement to the Mi’kmaw and, later, the Métis peoples. Katie’s likable; her self-aware narration clarifies her challenges. Her uniquely ordered world is believable, as are her bouts of anxiety and difficulty reading emotions. Bullied in Montreal, in Lunenburg Katie meets only understanding and kindness. No one’s offended when she avoids physical contact or finds her conceited when she (accurately) enumerates her abilities. Catherine’s story is introduced awkwardly, and the novel’s resolution raises unanswered questions, but well-drawn characters (most, like Katie, white), vivid setting, and gripping history compensate for uneven plotting.
This blend of a contemporary search for roots with finely detailed colonial history rewards patient readers, especially fans of historical fiction. (author interview) (Fiction. 8-12)