Unbrokenby Jessie Haas, William Morrow & Co. Greenwillow
In a novel set in 1910 Vermont, thirteen-year-old Harriet has lived contentedly alone with her mother, but their life together is shattered when her mother is killed in a horse and buggy accident. The mare has to be shot, leaving both Harry and the mare's two-year-old colt orphans. Harry is horrified to learn that, according to her mother's will, she is to be… See more details below
In a novel set in 1910 Vermont, thirteen-year-old Harriet has lived contentedly alone with her mother, but their life together is shattered when her mother is killed in a horse and buggy accident. The mare has to be shot, leaving both Harry and the mare's two-year-old colt orphans. Harry is horrified to learn that, according to her mother's will, she is to be sent to live with her father's sister, Aunt Sarah, on her scrappy hill farm outside of town. While life with her mother revolved around Harry's education, Aunt Sarah expects Harry to stay home and help out on the farm. Her only chance of returning to the Academy in the fall is to break in the colt so that she can ride the seven miles into town. Just as the colt resists Harry's attempts to train him, Harry quarrels with Aunt Sarah, who "only wanted to be the boss." Harry also refuses to listen to Aunt Sarah's insinuations of her mother's character, but Harry's lack of knowledge about her parents' wedding date causes "the doubt to bite inward." When the colt drags her in a training session, giving her severe rope burns, Aunt Sarah leaps into action, driving her to the doctor. Only then does Harry see beyond her anger to realize that Aunt Sarah does care for her, in her own aloof way. The quiet novel moves quickly and is enriched by genuine dialogue, realistic portrayals of grief, and careful observations in the first-person narrative. Sensory descriptions of the hills-"row on row of them, like ocean waves," where "morning mist still lingered, rising like whipped cream out of a bowl"-and of tasks such as butter churning and hay cutting give a strong sense of the Green Mountain setting and turn-of-the-century time.
The New York Times Book Review
Read an Excerpt
Our pencils scratched steadily. Every head was bowed, but we watched Miss Spencer and Reverend Astley from under our hands or hair.
He spoke close to her ear, and the welcoming smile went stiff on her face, then vanished as she glanced our way.Behind me Luke drew a faint hissing breath.Trouble for someone.
I wondered for whom, watched my hand scrolling out an elegant line of script across the page, so regular and well formed that I barely recognized it for my own, glanced out the high window, through which the sun streamed--
My pencil clattered on the floor.Miss Spencer;s face, full of compassion, was turned toward me. My heart squeezed.
"Bring your things, dear," she said.
Luke's breath hissed again, and I felt her fingers touch my back.With numb hands I scrambled my books and papers into a pile and rose with them in my arms.Billy Booth gave me the pencil, with a sympathetic grimace. Then I was up the aisle, being ushered out of the room by Reverend Astley, and the thick oak door shut behind us.
"I won't keep you in suspense," he said, turning to face me the moment we were alone."Your mother has been injured in an accident, and you must come home at once."
He took the books.He hand on my upper arm hurried me along the corridor as the clock struck the half hour. Nine-thirty in the morning --
"Is she --"
"Her condition is serious, but the doctors are hopeful."
He opened the door for me.At the bottom of the stairs his buggy waited.He handed me up, climbed in himself, and turned the roan horse.
"What--what's wrong with her?What happened?"
Reverend Astley seemed to hesitate for a moment."I don't know the details," he said finally."An automobilewas involved, and the horse took fright.Your mother was on her way back from bringing you to school, I understand."
A lump began to grow in my throat.We were late this morning.I'd jumped down over the wheel and ran up the Academy steps without glancing back.Just "Bye!" over my shoulder, and the sound of Belle's hooves as Mother turned her.
Oh, please let her be alright. Please
Barrett village blurred past, and we were out on the road, climbing between fields and pastures towards West Barrett.
"Don't look," the reverend said suddenly. "Close your eyes!"
Too late.There ahead of us was the buggy, shattered like a shot crow: broken shafts, broken axle, splintered top.It looked to fragile ever to have carried the two of us.
Farther along the sun gleamed on a motionless sorrel mound. Belle. I saw her white foot curled up toward her belly, as if ready for one last kick.The roan horse pricked his ears, and his steady trot faultered, but Reverend Astley touched him with the whip, and he clopped on.
Copyright ) 1999 by Jessie Haas
Meet the Author
Jessie Haas is the author of numerous acclaimed books for young people, including Unbroken, which was a Publishers Weekly Best Book, a School Library Journal Best Book, a Parent's Choice Gold Award winner, a Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, and CCBC Choice. Her most recent novel, Shaper, won a Golden Kite Honor Award.
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