We fear for her younger sister Phoebe (sick with pneumonia), we worry for her missing brother (who disappeared during the Mississippi flooding), there are too many secrets that could lead to trouble. Something is brewing and it will not be long until it bubbles over and scalds Caroline in some way. When the worst comes, it leaves the reader reeling, speechless and saddened. You are not quite sure how this family, how this 14 year old young woman, can fight past this new ache. Having endured so much, how can they possibly rebuild?
A new voice, burning with wisdom and hope, during one of the most tragic eras in American history, Susanna Lancaster is an author to watch! Her characters felt real. Caroline was strong willed, against all the odds. Even in a time when women were considered less than men, she hitched up her dress and pushed herself to take on the responsibilities and the burdens of the farm. She became the adult, when all the adults around failed her. Her only relief came from her endearing Aunt June (who fostered her reading and encouraged her to enjoy life and her childhood) and the ornery Miss Evelyn (an elderly neighbour, who changed Caroline's perspective on how she views and treats others).
There is a lot of growth in this novel, for all of the characters, but especially for Caroline. She slowly realizes that even if people move away, or out of your life, they are still a part of you and continue to influence who you are as a person. She gains understanding of others, accepts their faults and flaws, often forgiving instead of begrudging. Her realizations are genuine and honest, and by the end of the book you see the adult she has become in such a short time. The truths she reveals hold meaning for all of us. People may leave our lives, may face their own journeys, but they do not leave our hearts. Instead, they fill our hearts before they go; and, while they are gone we hold them close and love them just the same. They take pieces of us with them and we must learn to accept this and continue to live our own lives, to be happy as we are, with what we have, and with the knowledge that they are out there living as well. Caroline learns that growing up often means growing apart; however, this is not a bad thing, it is just a part of life.
Book 46/50...4 to go!