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Miner's Daughter

Miner's Daughter

4.0 12
by Gretchen Moran Laskas

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Perhaps there is always a mark, when another person touches you, an invisible thread connecting you to them.

Backbreaking work, threadbare clothes, and black coal dust choking the air — this is what a miner's daughter knows. Willa Lowell fears that this dust marks her to be nothing else, that she will never win against the constant struggle to


Perhaps there is always a mark, when another person touches you, an invisible thread connecting you to them.

Backbreaking work, threadbare clothes, and black coal dust choking the air — this is what a miner's daughter knows. Willa Lowell fears that this dust marks her to be nothing else, that she will never win against the constant struggle to survive. Even the fierce flame of her family's love — her one bright spot against the darkness — has begun to dim.

Willa yearns for a better life — enough food to eat, clothes that fit, and a home free of black grit. She also yearns for a special love, the love of a boy who makes her laugh and shares the poetry she carries in her heart.

When a much brighter future is suddenly promised to her family, Willa knows it is a miracle . . . until she discovers that every promise has a price. But she also discovers that the real change has burned inside her all along — if only she is strong enough to mine it.

Writing in a style that is as breathtaking and lyrical as it is powerful, Gretchen Moran Laskas draws from her family's past to bring to life the story of a girl struggling against seemingly insurmountable odds. The Miner's Daughter will touch readers' hearts and stay with them long after they've read the last word.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In The Miner's Daughter, Gretchen Laskas brings to life a harsh and real — yet beautiful — world that is nothing less than fascinating." — Cynthia Kadohata, author of Kira-Kira
Children's Literature - Jennifer Mitchell
Willa is an average teenage girl growing up during the Great Depression. Her father and brother work in the coal mines in West Virginia. Her mother is struggling through a difficult pregnancy, and Willa has to quit school to help her family. Her life is consumed with concern for the safety of her father and brother, cleaning her house, caring for her younger brother and sister, and taking endless trips down the hill to the community water spigot. Despite her hardships, Willa finds joy in reading and talking with her best friend, Roselia. Willa's life very quickly ceases to be ordinary, however, when the mines are suddenly shut down. Tensions begin to rise in the town and in her own house when discussion turns to the upcoming election between Hoover and Roosevelt. Willa finds a place of peace and solitude from these and other conflicts. She also makes some new friends that open her life to wonderful new opportunities, but the changes are bittersweet when she discovers that her new life has some pricey strings attached. Can Willa leave her old life behind her? This book is perfect for a book study on life during the Great Depression, friendship, character changes, and the challenges of making difficult choices. This wonderfully written book follows in the great tradition of historical novels by Anne Rinaldi and L.M. Elliot.
VOYA - Lucy Schall
Surrounded by the stark poverty of West Virginia Depression-era coal mining life, sixteen-year-old Willa shoulders a woman's responsibilities. Willa leaves school to keep house for her father, sister, two brothers, and struggling pregnant mother. She continues book learning when a missionary, Grace McCartney, sets up a reading room and lending library. Her mother's slow recovery from giving birth, her brother and father's leaving to find work, her own backbreaking field labor, and romance leads Willa to confide in Grace, who introduces the gifted Willa and her industrious family to Eleanor Roosevelt. Both Mrs. Roosevelt and Grace recommend the family for the Arthurdale experiment, a New Deal homestead. Almost refusing to participate when she discovers that the project is WASP only, Willa records her objection in a private diary. Through her mother and teacher, Willa's words reach Mrs. Roosevelt who publishes them in her column. Willa discovers that although she still loves the Catholic boy she left behind, she wants to make a difference in the world via a newspaper career before marrying. Strong, believable characters, an engaging plot, and lyrical prose make this story a great companion for coming-of-age Depression literature such as Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Scholastic,1997/VOYA April 1998). An author's note includes five Web sites for further information on West Virginia, Arthurdale, and the New Deal.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
Laskas is an 8th-generation West Virginian and she was inspired by her own family's history when writing about Willa, the miner's daughter. The story is set in the year that Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected, during the height of the Great Depression. We may know something about the Dust Bowl, soup lines, and other aspects of that terrible time, but perhaps we know little about the coal miners of West Virginia and how they survived when the mines were closed. Of course, it wasn't just the Depression that made their lives so desperate. The story begins as Willa is 16 years old and must stay in their dilapidated home (owned by the mining company) to take care of her ill, pregnant mother and the younger children. At least her father and older brother Ves are employed in the mines—in the weeks up to the election. After the election, the mines are closed and the family barely survives. The father and Ves go off to work on a road project to be able to send money to the family left behind. The only bright spot for Willa is a young woman named Grace who has come from a middle-class background to open a library and community center in the ravaged mine camp. Willa reads as much as she possibly can; the family struggles along. When summer comes, Willa disguises herself as a boy to work in the fields picking crops, which brings in much-needed produce for her family. She meets Ves's friend Johnny and their romance grows until they are seriously considering getting married and moving to Pittsburgh to start a new life. But, as part of Roosevelt's New Deal, Willa and her family have a chance to live better—it's a difficult decision for Willa because if she stays with her own family, shemust turn her back on Johnny and her other friends whose parents are foreign-born, who can't take part in the government program. Isn't it amazing how themes in our country's politics and culture remain the same? This is a carefully written example of what poverty means to hard-working families. When Willa has a chance to visit Grace's family's home, marveling at the hot and cold water, the flush toilet, the abundant food, YA readers can get a sense of just how much we take for granted. A worthy book—certainly a necessary purchase in communities where mining is part of their history.
School Library Journal
Gr 5�8
Willa Laura Lowell is a 16-year-old miner's daughter ushering in the Depression in a West Virginia coal miner's camp. The days are long and hard, but worse when the mine shuts down. There is no money, forcing Willa's father and older brother to look for work elsewhere. Left alone with her mother and three younger siblings, Willa helps as she can and dreams of a better life. Life changes dramatically for her and her family when they are offered a place in a new town. The teen never loses sight of where she came from and is determined to help others as she was helped. Richly drawn characters and plot make this an excellent novel that explores the struggles endured by many in America in the 1930s. The integrity of the characters and their resourcefulness show readers how, with hard work and determination, adversity can be overcome.
—Denise MooreCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen-year-old Willa Lowell lives in "a world of ashy grays"-trees gone, the earth bare, pits smoldering and houses stacked up on the hills like rungs of a ladder and blackened by coal dust. She knows there's a beautiful world beyond her desolate one; she has seen it from walks up the mountain with her brother Ves, looking across the valley to the next mountain over. And Miss Grace, the new lady at the Mission, welcomes Willa to her library, a clean, well-lighted place full of books. It is Miss Grace and her books that lead Willa beyond her narrow world to new hope in Arthurdale, a planned community championed by Eleanor Roosevelt to offer hope in the midst of the Depression. The 1932 West Virginia setting is beautifully realized, historical details never overwhelming a story that succeeds in putting a human face on poverty, prejudice and dreams. Rooted in Laskas's own family history, this is a fine coming-of-age story and an ode to libraries that teachers and librarians will love. (author's note) (Fiction. 12+)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

What People are Saying About This

In The Miner's Daughter, Gretchen Laskas brings to life a harsh and real -- yet beautiful -- world that is nothing less than fascinating. Cynthia Kadohata, author of the Newbery winner Kira Kira

Meet the Author

Gretchen Moran Laskas has also written the adult novel The Midwife's Tale, which also takes place in West Virginia. She grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but currently lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her family. Visit her at www.gretchenlaskas.com.

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Miner's Daughter 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book The Miner’s Daughter is a great book, Gretchen Moran Laskas gives us an inside look of how it was back then for miners and their family. The author tells us how a small town girl grows up to get more than she is used to. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a book about drama, romance, and motivation.The Miners Daughter is a book about a young girl named Willa. Willa has to fight for her life to stay alive. She just wants a normal life where she has enough food to eat, cloths that fit, and a home free of black grit. She also wants a love in her life that makes her laugh and shares the poetry that is closest to her heart. Willa is just like average teenage girls except for the fact she lives near a coal mine and has no real educatioI really enjoyed this book because I related to it and I feel the same way she does. To me the character that would best describe me would be Willa because of what she does and where she lives and the role she has to play in her family. The book The Miner’s Daughter I feel is the best book I have ever read but that’s my opinion. If I had to number the book from one to five, it would be a ten!The Miner’s Daughter is a great book to read, it tells us about love at a young age and the role some teenage girls have to play in their family to survive. The Miner’s Daughter is a look inside of how miner’s families survived back then and how hard it was to get the simple thing that we could easily get today like food, cloths, and education.
TNB More than 1 year ago
This book was definitely not the best book I have ever read. I thought it was just one of those stories that has it's ups and downs. The beginning is one of it's downs because it seems to drag on. I really started to like reading this book when it picked up towards the middle. I am not really into historical fiction, but the only reason I liked this book was the way the author incorporated the Depression in with the conflict of the story. If you read this book you would understand. If you are one for historical and realistic conflicts you would like this book. This book includes love and conflict within the Lowell family. In this book you follow the family's struggles through the Depression to their big move as part of the New Deal. This book was not my favorite but that is just my opinion.
GingerDawnHarman More than 1 year ago
The Miner's Daughter by Gretchen Moran Laskas A book review by Ginger Dawn Harman “Willa had never sounded out her whole name before, but she, too, liked the way it sounded when she said the whole thing, Willa Laura Lowell. She imagined going into a post office, or even the company store, where telegrams were sent and received. "Anything for Willa Laura Lowell?' she would ask. Why, she could be anyone at all, someone important, with a name like that." Our local book club was recently given The Miner's Daughter by Gretchen Moran Laskas to read and review. I immediately thumbed the pages and the above quote was the first thing I read. Imagine being a young girl, poor, and home is a miner’s camp in West Virginia, a stoic time filled with “those” families that struggled during the depression. One that is forgotten and whom very few cared about, this is your reality. Yet Willa portrays hope and having a name with meaning that will create her future. Names and labels are often confused. A name is a distinctive designation. Labels and images are the mental representation we create of what we think we are like; it may or may not bear a close relation to how others actually see us. This theme is present in the novel, The Miner's Daughter, by Gretchen Moran Laskas. The story begins with the closing of the mine and the arrival of a missionary from Fairmont named Miss Grace. Miss Grace exposes Willa to the splendor of books and education. One of my favorite moments was when Willa first reads Poe’s Poem, Eldorado. "She hurried, for she couldn't wait to read the poem again, ten times, a hundred times even. It's only words, she told herself, but her racing heart knew they were much more....Words are powerful...now she realized just how powerful words could be when they were written down for someone else to read. Even when the words aren't about something real.” Eldorado might not be a place you could go, but the journey of the knight was true enough.” This is the heart of The Miner’s Daughter. This is the journey of Willa and her family. Gretchen Laskas delivers powerful details that are crafted into a believable tale. The novel also includes Willa’s true knights as a first love, new, and old friends that she meets on her own journey. There are many historical elements that are part of The Miner’s Daughter. One is the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and visits from Eleanor Roosevelt. Another element is Willa’s family home and at Arthurdale, a new town established under the New Deal for West Virginia homesteaders. Moreover, this was emphasized when Willa’s father and brother Ves had to search for jobs that were nonexistent. Additionally, Laskas creates a strong heroine as Willa cuts her hair and dresses as a boy in order to work farm fields so the family could eat. I appreciate the author’s view that even with new opportunities; solutions to problems do not always have a tidy fix. This was evident when Willa’s best friend Rosalinda Olivettis and her family who are immigrants from Italy, were not given the same opportunity because they are labeled as “not born Americans”. Gretchen Moran Laskas writes a deeply touching tale that gives warmth, hope, and acceptance. Her language use is emotional, precise and clear. The reader understands each word and meaning as Willa must transition into a woman. I was particularly impressed with the development of each character. Gretchen Laskas offers believable characters that probe the power of friendship with the tenderness, honesty, and empathetic understanding. My only disappointment was that the novel was somewhat predictable. Overall, I highly enjoyed this book and was so captivated with the tale that I stayed up all night reading it and then purchased a copy on Kindle as a gift for a friend. This is a young adult novel that I feel will give valuable insights to many young readers. I highly recommend The Miner's Daughter by Gretchen Moran Laskas .
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
In this tenderly crafted novel, Willa is a struggling sixteen-year-old girl living during the hard times of The Great Depression. All of her life, Willa has lived in a mining camp where her father and older brother work as coal miners. As economic conditions worsen and the coal mine shuts down, Willa's father and brother leave home to find a new job. This leaves Willa responsible to take care of her younger siblings, her weakened mother, and the numerous household chores.

When Miss Grace, a missionary, arrives in town, Willa is about to experience some exciting new changes. With her best friend, Roselia, they read through Miss Grace's vast collection of books and fantasize about life. But when Willa's father becomes extremely ill and Willa has a rare chance to escape the mining camp, there are some big decisions Willa has to make.

This novel was purely amazing and I read it in one sitting. Willa is one of the strongest fictional female characters I know. She never gives up and shines with strength throughout the story to the very last page. With her, THE MINER'S DAUGHTER is a perfect combination of family, friendship, and romance all set during the harshness of The Great Depression. I would recommend this book to all girls going through tough times...it inspired me thoroughly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book really shows u how much u have and how much u need to thank God for
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have you ever known how it felt to be a teenager in the early 1900’s who takes care of the chores, family and her just everyday life? Well for Willa in the “Miners daughter, written by: Gretchen Laskas” that’s her everyday life since her mom became pregnant with their 5th child. She has a shy but hardworking older brother who she finally gets. They walk to the mountain near where they live (Riley Mines) and she pours her heart and soul into him. Then there’s trouble some Sera. Who Willa finally loses all self- control on her. When? Well you’ll just have to read the book to find out. There’s also shy Kyle who has barely said a word to anyone since well along time. Then there last child is Rusty. The new born, baby who everyone is in love with. Willa does everything for the family while her mom is pregnant. Her older brother and father she worries about. They work in the worst part of town. The mines! At any moment the mines could fall and kill them. They starve themselves because the grocery store only opens once a month. So many things happen to Willa and she doesn’t know what to do. One day her older brother, Ves comes to her family and says there is a place called hawks nest where they can go and earn more money. They leave after the next couple of days. Later Willa goes to see Mrs. Grace (a woman who moved to the Riley Mines and loves reading). She asks her to turn her into a boy. She does but asks why. If you want to figure out what Willa does and what happens to her in the rest of the book, read it. I loved this book. It made me feel sad and happy at times. Sometimes confused then a twist happens and it’s exciting. Willa to me, the reader made her feel sad, but to me I don’t think she actually was. She loved reading and that made her happy when she got to do it with her boyfriend. I think that is one thing I would change about this book. But, otherwise it was the best book I have ever read. It was descriptive and fun and just awesome! Read this book, it’s great! I think the kind of reader that would like this is anyone who likes social studies and history. Gretchen Laskas is an excellent writer. I would definitely read any of the other books she has written. This is the first book in this series. I really hope they come out with another one. I really think you should read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great, but I'm not much a historical fiction person. I liked the insight of someone's actual life during the Depression. Being set in West Virginia makes it even better (Go Mountaineers!) Willa is closely related with being close to my age, the older brother, and younger siblings. Having books with the main character close in age makes it easier to relate to. The feeling of being a bystander in the story has ups and downs. While I can watch from a distance, I feel a sense of helplessness come upon me with the problems she faces. All in all, great book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was ONLY ok.it was a little hard to follow,like it wasnt very well organized writing.not one i would read again.,but good in site on the real depression,not hollywood depression.