Age Range: 8 - 12
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A quiet tale of love and belonging, set on the coast of Maine in 1806. Eleven-year-old Abbie and her little brother Seth are effectively orphaned when their mother dies of smallpox and their mariner father is off at sea, incommunicado for the past six months. Determined to keep what’s left of her family together, Abbie offers her services to the young Mrs. Chase, herself soon widowed. As the seasons change from late winter through the year to winter again, Abbie, Seth, and Widow Chase find that they have molded themselves into a new family, to be completed by the birth of the widow’s baby in the winter. Newcomer Wait offers a quietly lyrical text that deftly and painlessly weaves into Abbie’s deeply personal story observations about the social and cultural structure of this small, seafaring town: “Captain Chase and his wife had three fireplaces. One in the kitchen, to be sure, but here was another, unused for now and that I could see was for company, and Mrs. Chase had talked of still another, upstairs. . . . It was hard to think of such luxury.” Abbie and Seth emerge as fully fledged characters, Abbie a thoughtful girl with few illusions about the world, and Seth a boy pining for his father and determined to follow in his footsteps. The Widow Chase is less well-realized; her determination to stay in her husband’s house rather than return to her family goes largely unexplained, and therefore her willingness to take up a trade (millinery) to maintain her independence in defiance of social mores is not sufficiently grounded. This is a small quibble with a novel otherwise finely crafted, with a very nearly perfect sense of its setting in place and time. (historical note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-83832-8
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: McElderry
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2001


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