Happy November! Today is a big day. Today starts the November NaBloPoMo (see BlogHer for details), and it’s my first time participating in this fabulous writing opportunity! For the entire month of November, you should be able to come back and see a new post on this blog every day. I’m just giddy with excitement! I can’t wait to also see all of the blog posts written by other participants, too: they’re sure to be awesome.
Today is also, apparently National Book Lovers Day–though there is some dispute about when this day actually is. Some circles say that this little holiday is on August 9th, whereas other claim it to be the first Saturday in November. If you’re a bona fide book lover, though, you probably care not: you can celebrate on both (or every) days.
I therefore thought it fitting to talk a little bit about a book that I’m currently rereading: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. It’s one of my favorite books EVER, and I’m enjoying it again this weekend because I recently had what can only be described as a craving to read it again. I thought about the book for days and days before I gave up fighting the urge to go get it from the library. I’m almost halfway through now.
I love this book because I enjoy reading about Mathilda (Matt), who is a logophile trapped in a place where almost no one really understands her passion for words and reading. Her Pa wants her to knock it off and stay on to help with the farm (which is hard to run without the help of both Lawton an Mamma), and her crush cannot wrap his mind around why she bothers with “book-learnin'” (so he devises ways to snap her out of it). The only one who accepts Matt’s predilection for literature is her best friend Weaver, with whom she has “Word Duels” to keep them thinking about their precious words.
Matt and Weaver share the dream of going to college. They have both been accepted to a university, but it’s difficult to raise money to get there when just getting by is hard enough. Then, when there’s a mysterious death in the small town (which inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy), people start to talk…and Matt might have something from the deceased that could explain things. She’s torn about revealing this extra evidence because she already made a promise to Grace Brown (the deceased) that she would destroy it. Will she bring the evidence to light so that the mystery might be solved, or will she keep her promise to a dead person?
In flashbacks that lead up to the sudden deaths, we are shown that Matt is struggling against the norms that would keep her from leaving town for college. She is expected to stay on her family’s farm, marry, and live a life of hard work on a new farm, far from the schoolhouse. Furthermore, she’s sixteen, but people (especially girls) stop going to school at around age fourteen. Everyone else has figured out her life for her, even though her life goals lie outside of the North Woods community. Even her crush has decided that he’s all that and then some. He starts kissing and touching her without permission, and when she pushes him away he says, “What’s wrong? You saving them?…For who, Matt?” As though she would obviously have no other desire than to settle down and marry him.
It’s a wonderful book to get lost in, but it has some powerful undertones of educational rights, the power of words, the wonder of stories that can be told, family dynamics, and gender roles. To celebrate your love of books (on any day), this would be an excellent choice. 🙂