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Becky Thatcher wants to set the record straight. She was never the weeping ninny Mark Twain made her out to be in his famous novel. She knew Samuel Clemens before he was “Mark Twain,” when he was a wide-eyed dreamer who never could get his facts straight. Yes, she was Tom’s childhood sweetheart, but the true story of their love, and the dark secret that tore it apart, never made it into Twain’s novel.
Now married to Tom’s cousin Sid Hopkins, Becky has children of her own to protect while the men of Missouri are off fighting their “un-Civil” War. But when tragedy strikes at home, Becky embarks on a phenomenal quest to find her husband and save her family-a life journey that takes her from the Mississippi River’s steamboats to Ozark rebel camps, from Nevada’s silver mines to the gilded streets of San Francisco.
Time and again, stubborn but levelheaded Becky must reconcile her independent spirit and thirst for adventure with the era’s narrow notions of marriage and motherhood. As she seeks to find a compromise between fulfillment and security, she also grapples with ghosts of her past. Can she forgive herself, or be forgiven, for the lies she’s told to the men she’s loved? Will she ever forget the maddening, sweet-talking, irresponsible Tom Sawyer, the boy who stole her heart as a little girl? And when she is old, and Huck and Tom and Twain only memories, whose shadow will still lie beside her?
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.74(w) x 9.13(h) x 1.34(d)|
About the Author
Lenore Hart is the author of Ordinary Springs, Waterwoman, and other novels. Her work has been featured on Voice of America, in Poets & Writers Magazine, and on the PBS series “Writer to Writer.” She teaches creative writing at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania and Old Dominion University in Virginia. She lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her husband, novelist David Poyer, and their daughter.
Read an Excerpt
The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher
By Lenore Hart
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2007 Lenore Hart
All rights reserved.
MY HUSBAND LEFT us on an otherwise pleasant morning in March. I felt the bed sag as he slid from the feather tick so slowly, it would not have waked me, had I still been asleep. When I opened my eyes and saw him across the room, packing, I watched and debated whether it would hurt or help to beg him to stay.
To be fair, he had warned me. Over dinner the night before he said he'd gone down to the federal headquarters and signed up. I'd set my fork down and almost laughed. Because it seemed like a joke to go off now, three years into the war. "Oh, Sid. Whatever for?"
"It's my duty, Becky." He frowned, cut a precise square of beef. "Sam Clemens went."
"For three weeks! And even he finally got the good sense to sit this one out."
Since Sixty-one, our war had been nothing but confusion. Who was the enemy — the secesh South, the occupying federals, or the shiftless, violent militias that sometimes preyed on the unlucky? Missouri was a slave state, true, but at the Secession Convention we'd voted to remain Union. Like many, Governor Jackson had family ties in Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He longed like mad to secede. But Missourians are practical above all else. We would've been surrounded on three sides by a foreign country called the United States. The Island of Missouri, our shores lapped by the free states of Kansas, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
But when our governor told Lincoln Missouri would not provide any soldiers, the war came to us. The president sent federal troops into St. Louis to evict our state guard from Camp Jackson. We soon learned the man in charge, Captain Nathaniel Lyon, greatly enjoyed two things: to reconnoiter dressed as a woman, and to inflict hard punishments. As angry crowds in St. Louis protested, heckling the federal forces marching through their streets, a stray shot rang out. And Lyon ordered his men to fire on the crowd, killing twenty-eight unarmed civilians.
Sid had read such news aloud from the evening paper as I darned stockings or rocked the baby. We agreed it was a bad business, that we could take neither side wholeheartedly. Our friend Sam Clemens hadn't hesitated, though, when he was called up to be a riverboat pilot for the Union. While Sid sat behind a polished desk, shuffling papers and filing grievances about trespassing cows or undelivered furniture. Sid had considered going as well, even when I pointed out Sam had lasted only three weeks in uniform.
"Anyway, why go now?" I'd argued at dinner the night before. "You never went in for such nonsense. To go out seeking glory like some tin knight in a novel."
He'd looked up over his plate at me, face set hard. "No, that's true. I was never any kind of hero. Not to anybody. The job was already filled."
I knew what he meant, but was too worked up by then to have the good sense to just let it be. "And now you're acting just like him!" I slapped the dining room table, making Aunt Polly's cracked Limoges sugar bowl jump.
The wrong thing to say entirely. But Tom Sawyer was whom Sid put me in mind of just then. You never could tell his cousin Tom what to do or not do. Sid had always been the reasonable one. If you can call any man reasonable.
We went to bed mad.
Now it was morning, the light gray-dark, the spring night turning to molasses, flowing away as the sun rose to melt it. The time of day Tom Sawyer as a boy would've been slinking back into this very house, for it was Aunt Polly's place back then. But Tom was long gone, off on the Mississippi — no boy anymore but a famous river pilot. And Huck Finn no longer lurked beneath the window, calling like a stray cat. But my good, sensible Sid was creeping around in the chill dark, gathering up long Johns, wool pants, a flannel shirt, a clean white collar.
Lord God, why a clean one, I wanted to say. It'll be filthy with powder-smut soon enough.
I lay still, though, eyes shut, breathing slow and even. I didn't know then that, in his famous novel, Mark Twain would portray Sidney Hopkins not as he was — thoughtful and kind and quietly brave — but as a smirking little sneak, a weak-chinned tattler who always envied Tom. I guess it made his hero seem misunderstood, even more romantic. But it wasn't the truth. And here Sid was going out to war at last in his thoughtful, reasoned way. Yes, that white shirt would turn black; his clothes grow dirty and stiff with blood. Someone else's, I hoped, not caring just then that it was a sin to wish calamity on others.
A board creaked, and I spoke. "Sid Hopkins. Why you stirring so early?"
He stood in the cold air hugging the white cloth to him like a modest girl. I could've laughed, except I knew where he was headed.
"Packing, that's all."
"Sid, please. You're too sensible to go fight. What a notion, so late! The Judge is ailing; he needs your help with cases and paperwork. This war foolishness can't go on much longer."
He turned back to his old calfskin valise and didn't answer.
I propped up on one elbow. "The boys and I need you here. So does Mary. We want you at home with us."
He shook his head and kept on throwing things — tobacco pouch, leather braces, hairbrush, his cased razor — into the valise.
I sat up and the covers fell away. "Oh, Sid. Why must you to do this now?"
"I've got to go, Bee. It may be a damn-fool war, but a fellow has to do his part. Stand up for what he believes."
"Someone's said something at you."
He paused, a lone sock clenched in pale ink-stained fingers. "That's right. And it may be foolish, but I care what folks think."
At least he didn't lie about it. I've always hated a liar most of all. "What did they say?"
He turned silently away and resumed packing.
"Well, then, come over here a minute," I said. Not giving up, but making my voice sound like it. No, I wouldn't give in until I'd tried everything I knew to keep him with me.
When he stood beside the bed I slid a hand from under the quilts. His fingers in my warm ones were so cold, it felt like mourning for him already. I held back a shiver, and pulled his hand under the covers. Slid it up under my nightgown, placed it on my warm belly.
"The baby'll wake," he whispered. "Gage, too."
"No," I said. "They sleep hard as puppies."
Then I drew him under easy as the river ought to have taken Tom, yet somehow never would. I'd always been thankful Sid was like him, yet different. A homebody. Not so brave as to be foolhardy. Dependable and kind. But bullets were even less forgiving than the Mississippi. So I made my husband stay awhile, using the only method that ever, far as I can tell, is surefire with men.
It worked for a bit, but finally he peeled my arms from around his neck. "I'll send word after I get to the camp."
"You could take Jim with you." I'd heard gentlemen were taking their servants to the war — and not just the Confederates.
"What? Oh, for ... Becky, it's the Union militia. You'll need Jim here to keep things going. Besides, he's a free man, remember?"
That had been my idea. Aunt Polly had finally bought Jim, years back, from the widow Watson, since he worked so often for her anyhow. But I couldn't forget how hard Jim had once tried for freedom on that raft with Huck. After Polly died, I'd made sure Sid and Mary set him free.
Then all I could do was get up and wrap the quilt around me against the cold. I wished Aunt Polly were still alive, and with a rap of one thimbled finger could make grown boys mind. No good appealing to his sister Mary. She thought both Tom and Sid had hung the moon and stars. She believed the whole world could do no wrong. The federal soldiers on our streets now had been a sorry revelation. Some didn't care if they elbowed a lady aside, or helped themselves to your eggs or the chickens themselves. She prayed for them every night, a missionary in her own backyard. Anyway she'd been terribly ill, coughing hard the last few weeks, and I didn't want to make her worse with a new worry. She'd been hiding the red-spotted evidence, burning her old hankies, but I'd found the charred scraps.
Trailing my quilt like a cape, I followed Sid to where our sons slept: Gage on a rope trundle, baby Tyler in a low oak cradle. He was getting too big for it; soon I'd have to move him to a real bed. Perhaps the sight of them would change Sid's mind.
But after he'd leaned over the crib, and brushed the hair back from Tyler's forehead, he straightened and turned away. I stood my ground in the doorway a moment, then stepped out of the way. Followed him like a barefoot, patchwork ghost to the foyer. Maybe outright accusation would slow him down. "Oh, I see. You were just going to leave without a word."
"I aimed to write a note," he said, looking miserable.
"Wait. I can boil up some coffee."
Sid shook his head.
What else was left? I hugged my husband to me, then thrust him out the door and down the steps with his pitiful suitcase full of useless things. I might stoop to guilt and treachery and the distraction of my body, but I did not want him to see me cry.
After a few minutes I blew my nose and went to the kitchen to make coffee. Mary wasn't up yet, but my little one would soon be climbing out of the crib. Easier to get things done, especially if they involved heat or fire, before he was toddling around.
At last I sat with my enamel mug steaming in the gold morning light. Unlike farther South, we still had a bit of real coffee, even if it was nothing like the rich, dark beans from Brazil my mother used to have ground twice and boiled up slowly for my father. Judge Thatcher likes his coffee strong and hot, and set in front of him first thing, Mother always reminded Trenny, our cook. Who would purse her lips and nod thoughtfully, as if she hadn't been doing that very thing for almost thirty years already.
I wished Mother were with me, then didn't. She would've been beside herself at Sid's leaving, shiny-eyed and proud. At least, if he'd been going to fight on the other side. Though from what I'd heard, Union was as bad as Confederate. And either only a tad better than the abolitionist raiders from Kansas or renegade secessionist gangs. The whispers of bloody atrocities being committed out in the deep woods and up in the mountain regions by all sides made a body feel like running in circles, pulling her hair, and screaming.
A war certainly brought the vermin out of the woodwork. If gentle, honest Sid had to face such scoundrels ... soon he'd be climbing the steps at headquarters. A brick building down on Main, it used to be our town hall. Now its wood parquet floors were roweled furry by spurs. The velvet curtains were falling from the rods, heavy with dust. Sid told me the old clerk had spirited the town records away in the dead of night. All our births and marriages and deaths, crammed into apple boxes, were hidden in one of the hillside caves, to stop the soldiers using them as tinder for the huge old iron stove.
I sat at the table worrying, wishing I hadn't thrown Tom Sawyer into Sid's face. Wishing I hadn't thought of his name at all, for now I couldn't pry him out of my head. We hadn't seen Tom since Sid and I had married, though he must've passed us all the time, piloting up and down the Mississippi. Of course the war had commerce all but suspended, and he never came ashore here anymore. But Tom could always hold a grudge.
Once I would've followed him anywhere, well beyond the childhood scrapes he'd dreamed up for Huck and Ben and Joe, and my cousin Jeff Thatcher. And then for me, too. But after what happened in McDowell's Cave, it was never the same between us. I'd pretended for a while his lie didn't matter. But not even Tom could make me forget a man had died. Maybe not the best of souls, but innocent of what the law had wanted him for. When Tom could have saved him ... yes, I could hold a grudge, too.
That wasn't the only grievance I'd hoarded like pennies, nursed deep in my heart nights while Sid lay asleep and unaware beside me. But it was the worst one, the sin I could least imagine Tom doing penance for. The one I believed I could never in this world forget, or forgive.CHAPTER 2
I FIRST MET TOM SAWYER when my family was newly arrived from St. Louis. My father had accepted the judgeship of Marion County, awarded by the governor himself. My Richmond-schooled mother, a true-blue Virginian in heritage and pretensions, was ecstatic about the honor. At least until she peered from the train window and got a good look at downtown Hannibal.
"Oh my dear Lord God," she gasped, lifting a hand as if to cross herself, then apparently thinking better of it. She fell back in her seat with such hard despair that puffs of dust rose around her. She turned to my father and whispered, "Your profession has brought us to the ends of the civilized world, Judge Thatcher."
"Buck up, Mrs. Thatcher," he said cheerfully. "This lonely outpost is reputed to be a bastion of your native culture. An island of slavocracy surrounded on three sides by free soil. On your left, across the mighty river, behold Illinois —"
Mother slapped him with her folded fan, a thing she often did when he was joking too much. Except this time the Judge winced and rubbed his wrist. "Forgive me, Louisa," he muttered.
I gave up puzzling over this odd exchange and craned to look out at the Mississippi, a flat stretch the color of tan mud. Two steamboats were trying to nuzzle into place first at the pier of a warehouse, like twin calves tussling for their mother's udder.
I leaned forward to peer through my parents' dust- streaked window at a large clapboard building nearly innocent of whitewash. Its crooked wooden sign proclaimed we were stopped at the HANNIBAL & ST. JOSEPH DEPOT. A porter began slowly unloading our trunks onto the platform. Trenny, who'd had to ride back in the Colored car, hurried up. She worried after the man, scolding and darting in with dogged persistence as he hoisted our things onto a wagon.
As other Coloreds got off, two men holding rifles stepped up to look them over. The debarking Negroes produced little slips of paper and kept their eyes downcast. The men scrutinized the papers closely and returned them grudgingly. I felt anxious then, because I had no paper on me at all, not even a train ticket. But when I asked, my father only laughed and pulled one of my braids.
The loaded baggage wagon pulled away. The Judge helped Mother and me into a phaeton. I sat next to Trenny, who attacked my face with a hankie, as if I'd been playing outside in the dirt instead of trapped in clean boredom on a train seat for hours. I stood this treatment for a moment, then squirmed away to look out the window again. We creaked over a narrow wooden bridge that spanned a creek, then rattled off and passed a lumberyard. Stacks of planks stretched away west as far as I could see. I marveled they had any trees left at all on the humped hills that flanked the town like lumpy, sleeping giants.
"Now, this here is Main Street," said the Judge, rousing himself to play tour guide along a broad unpaved avenue. "You see, it is not so bad after all. We have in just one block Grant's drugstore, a newspaper office, a millinery shop, and a general dry goods with quite a window display. Why, look at the boiled sweets in that big jar!"
I sat up alertly then, but my mother kept her face resolutely forward, as if the inside of the phaeton was of far greater interest. We turned onto Bird Street, which sounded funny to me. Then, onto Fourth.
"Let's see, what is this," my father mused, gazing at a huge white-block building on Fourth. "Why, of course. The courthouse! I'll be working right inside that place, my dears."
I squinted at a gathering on its front lawn. A man was waving his arms, making a speech from atop an upturned crate, while more people milled about. As our carriage paused to let a dray wagon pass through the intersection, I heard a deep voice bellow, "What about the damned slave thieves?" Then, much cheering and catcalls.
My father frowned, but kept talking all the way to his brother's house. My aunt and uncle Thatcher and my cousin Jeff lived on North Street in a three-story place of brick with crisp white trim, its big yard bordered with catalpa trees. They'd be good for climbing, I reckoned. As the Judge helped first Mother, then me to get out, a trio of boys galloped down the house's wide front steps. They streaked past, whooping, shirts flapping, faces painted up like savages.
Excerpted from Becky by Lenore Hart. Copyright © 2007 Lenore Hart. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Reading Group Guide
1. Why do you think Lenore Hart decided to give Becky Thatcher who’s not a central character in Twain’s Hannibal mythos a life of her own?
2. Why did she decide to tell Becky’s story from the first person point of view? Do you think events would seem significantly different if told in third person? How about if we saw things from the point of view of Tom, too? Or Huck? Injun Joe? Sid?
3. Twain based his characters on real people in his hometown. Some of them (like the man he based Injun Joe on), he changed significantly. One major theme of BECKY seems to be the relationship between author and character. How might you react if your life had been “immortalized” in this way?
4. The novel presents a steamy encounter between Becky and Tom the very night before her wedding to Sid. Does this strike you as credible, given the supposed mores of the 1850s? Considering Tom’s character, and Becky’s? Why or why not?
5. Are Hart’s scenes of, and explanations of, the ferocity and aimlessness of the violent partisan war in Missouri like other famous depictions of the Civil War in film and fiction? How does this author’s attitude toward the War differ from that of Margaret Mitchell? Michael and Jeff Shaara? Charles Frazier’s? Civil War films you’ve seen?
6. Some purists object to the use of an earlier authors’ characters for material in a later work, calling it a “misappropriation” or “violation” of the earlier piece. Yet authors from Shakespeare to Geraldine Brooks have “borrowed” and enlarged on other author’s characters. Do you support the objection to this, or not? What other works use earlier stories or characters as starting points?
7. In the opening scene, Becky refers to having “chased after wild rascals, and run from tame one.” What does she mean by this? What was the attraction of the principal “wild rascal” in the novel? How did Becky deal with her attraction to him, and how would her life have been different, had she not?
8. Hart uses varying flavors of period language throughout the book, from bushwhacker and river rat jargon, to military speech, to miner’s argot, to that of high San Francisco society. What particular phrases did you find unfamiliar? Did this enhance or lessen your pleasure in reading those passages?
9. Huck’s attitude toward Becky seems ambivalent, as if he is deeply torn between seeing her as a chum and as a rival for Tom’s affections. How do you see Huck’s position in what seems to be a triangle of some sort?
10. Becky refers often to the state of her clothing, the meaning of her choice of clothing, and how clothes at times hinder or help her accomplish what needs to be done. There are passages where she’s in widow’s weeds, or wears trousers, and even a wartime battle scene where she dons a sort of military uniform. How does the experience of clothing in Becky’s life mirror or differ from that in the life of a modern woman?
11. Becky admits that she herself was not a paragon of Victorian virtue – “never the weeping little ninny Sam Clemens made me out to be.” In what ways did she violate the feminine ideal of her epoch? What acts or omissions of hers would probably be judged more leniently by society today? Which would be judged more harshly? Does this reflect well on today’s society as compared to that of the 1800's, or badly?
12. Tom eventually either disappears or dies as a result of a massacre of Cheyenne Indians just before the Battle of the Little Bighorn. What is significant about his fate? Given his life experience and character, what do you think drives Tom to this fatal action? What is significant about the way the news reaches Becky?
13. Hart doesn’t portray Sam Clemens/Mark Twain himself in a worshipful or even wholly positive light or in BECKY. At times he comes across as clueless, feckless, not very brave, prone to wander, and even needing rescue. As the novel opens, Becky accuses him of “making up” much of what happened in Hannibal, saying he should be “ashamed.” Where do you think Hart found this Twain? Are her criticisms supported by what you’ve read of Twain’s life, his humorous works, and his writings about himself?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Becky tells the story of Becky Thatcher, who grew up with Tom and Huck and the gang. This novel provides an interesting twist by having Sam Clemens as a character and, obviously, by telling the story from Becky's point of view. I enjoyed the portrayal of life in Missouri during the War, especially what it was like to be a slave state, but not seccessionist. And I liked the character of Becky, who was a strong woman, and a good wife and mother despite mistakes she'd made.I found the plot a bit weak in that so much happened, with a lot of coincidences and some difficult to believe aspects. Enough said -- you won't find any spoilers here.
I must admit that I am a sucker for a good companion novel. Last year, I read Finn by Jon Clinch, which was a story about Huck Finn¿s infamous father. My latest read was the feminine side of this group of friends ¿ a story about Becky Thatcher, Tom Sawyer¿s sweetheart. In Becky: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher by Lenore Hart, Becky got her voice and opportunity to set the story straight.I loved and hated men, lost and found them, tried and failed to tempt them away from their own destruction. I¿ve been the cause of more than one death. I¿ve been a friend and enemy and fiancée, wife and mother and widow. I¿ve killed in a fight, and longed to do murder once or twice at home. I¿ve taught, mothered, soldiered, mined and even written for the newspapers. But I was never the weeping little ninny Sam Clemens made me out to be in his book .And with this statement, Becky began her story as a complex, multi-dimensional character, dead set about shaking this timid image that Mark Twain described in his novels.The story opened as Becky¿s husband, Sid, was about to leave for the army during the late months of the Civil War. This began Becky¿s adventures as she chased her husband into the wilds of Missouri in an attempt to bring him home. She disguised herself as a soldier to accomplish this mission and was involved in skirmish or two. Once reunited, the couple decided to move to Nevada to escape the war atrocities as home ¿ thus, beginning another set of adventures for Becky as she moved West. Hanging like a web over all of these stories were Becky¿s feelings for Tom. Tom and Huck were minor characters in this book, and Hart added different perspectives to these famous boys (who are now men in this book). Tom was self-absorbed and restless, always caring for his childhood sweetheart despite his lack of commitment to her. Huck was Tom¿s loyal companion ¿ raw, impatient, cunning and unforgiving - but I felt that Huck had more sense than his reckless friend. In addition to Tom and Huck, Hart added Sam Clemens, who came across as imaginative and scheming, eventually betraying his friendship with Becky when he published his books.With all of these males in her life, one can see how Becky did not grow up to be a ¿weeping little ninny.¿ However, I think Hart tried too hard to prove Becky was as strong as her male counterparts. The killings, the soldiering, the wearing of pants, the lying, the adultery ¿ it was a tad too much. Women can be strong without acting like men.Despite this small criticism, I enjoyed Becky and highly recommend this book to lovers of Tom Sawyer stories, Civil War fiction and tales about women¿s lives in history.
This is definitely cut from a different cloth than Tom Sawyer (more serious than whimsical), but I feel that Lenore did a wonderful job with bringing Becky's character to life. What was even more interesting is that Lenore chose to include Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) into the cast of characters who ran around with Tom and Becky. He would then go on to write and publish Tom Sawyer based off those escapades, but according to Becky, he got the facts all wrong!If you enjoy reading stories set in the Civil War era, the West and its mining frenzy, women dressed up as men to enlist, or obviously a Tom Sawyer fanatic, then Becky is perfect for you - a unique retelling or continuing story of a well-known character and her desire to find her place in the world as well as her heart.
This novel had what I most enjoy in novels - a suitably complex plot, realistic emotional motivations, a main character who is interesting and appealing. And there is the clever interaction of the novel "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", the real-life Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain, and the supposed real characters upon which Twain's novel was based. Ms. Hart handles it all with great skill and paints a picture of America around the time of the Civil War and the years thereafter that is appealing and lifelike. Thumbs up!
Occasionally there are romances which seem to transcend time. In most stories I¿ve read they are always fated to marry. This is the first the echoes the lost and unattainable romance of young love. Becky has in some ways moved on from her wild (for a young girl in the 1800s) activities with Tom, Huck and the Freebooters. Married to Tom¿s cousin and with children of her own she tries to be a decent wife but some things of her past always come back, like a bad habit. Becky, Sid, and young Gage find themselves making their way onto Nevada where Sid purchases a claim which hits silver. After things happen a while, Becky and her children travel to San Francisco where she sets herself up in a nice home and raises her children. But when a telegram comes bearing news of her past, what will she do?This story sets up a feeling of ¿if you love someone, let them free. If they come back then it¿s meant to be.¿ Back and forth Tom and Becky have a point-counterpoint which is shown in their past history and reaches a sad resolution at the end. I had a hard time setting this story down to stud up for finals so I hope you consider picking up this sweet and moving tale of a true love.
In Becky: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher, Lenore Hart neatly turns Mark Twain's world of Tom Sawyer on its head. Hart has extended the child-like stories of Twain to create a strong-willed, flawed young woman who must survive the perils of an adult world. A great deal of the novel takes place during the Civil War, the depiction of which would make Margaret Mitchell proud, and, just as in her childhood, Becky finds herself trying to measure up to the males in her life. We are able to see what happened in Tom Sawyer's adventures from her point of view and it enables us to see how those experiences helped shape the characters we know and love. Love itself is a powerful theme throughout the novel, for Becky will always be in love with a boy of twelve years of age. I found the book fascinating. The feminist undertones that support the heroine through her trials helped to open other perspectives on the world that Twain created. Also, the fact that Hart created Becky as a flawed figure enables a reader of either gender to identify with her. I have to confess that I even got excited every time Tom or Huck made an appearance. It helps to have read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but I don't believe it is necessary. This is a book that not only encourages the power of love throughout the years but challenges the roles of women during an era of our history. I think it could even be taught as a companion to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in a college or even higher level high school course.
A good subtitle for Becky might be the true biography of Tom Sawyer. Becky does tell the tale, from Becky Thatcher's perspective, of what Sam Clemens, (definitely not the alter ego of Tom Sawyer), got wrong in his book. But it also recounts what life was like in Missouri during the Civil War, when the state was not exactly Confederate and not exactly Union. It goes on to give a glimpse into what life was like when the Comstock Lode was going in Nevada, and finishes up with San Francisco in the late years of the 19th century.However, there is nothing innovative about what Hart adds to the history of these places. If one knows the general history of the area or period, there is nothing that will surprise them. I was hoping that Hart would put Becky into situations that perhaps most people were not aware of, but there was only one instance where this occurred, and it came off as almost unbelievable.Overall, an interesting read, especially if you like Mark Twain's writing, and now I want to reread The Adventures of Tom Sawyer so that I can compare to Becky. I would read more of Lenore Hart's books given the chance.
If your lack of familiarity with the story of Tom Sawyer is discouraging you from picking this book up, put those thoughts away right now! Even if all you know about Becky Thatcher is that she was Tom's sweetheart (or if you don't even know that much!), this book is still wonderful. My only experience with Tom Sawyer was a cursory reading in 7th grade, of which I remember very little. I absolutely loved this book! Becky Thatcher was not the prissy little girl Mark Twain made her out to be, and she is out to set the record straight. This book starts out near the end of the Civil War. Becky is married to Tom Sawyer's cousin, Sid, who heads off to join the war even at the late date. The story takes us to the battlefield, the Nevada Territory, San Francisco, and even Panama. Becky proves that she is one strong woman, and her adventures will keep you on the edge of your seat. I highly recommend this book to *anyone* who likes a good story.
Early Reviewers, November 2007In Becky: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher, Lenore Hart weaves historical fiction and gentle romance into Mark Twain's classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, with the caveat that the heroine, Becky Thatcher, is not the sniveling girl Twain portrayed her to be. The story begins with a grown up Thatcher, married to Tom's cousin Sid Hopkins caring for two children with Hannibal, Missouri facing the effects of a country on the brink of civil war. Though satisfied with her life, Becky has fond recollections of her childhood days ¿ in flashback scenes the reader is brought to a fun alternate narration of Tom Sawyer - and still nurses secret affections for her first sweetheart. Hart¿s novel plunges into adventure as the grown up Becky tries to save her husband from the war and convinces her family to follow the gold rush out to the Wild West. Along the way Samuel Clemens (the writer who adopts the pen name Mark Twain), Huck Finn, Jesse James, and, of course, Tom Sawyer make their way into Becky¿s tale enhancing the feeling that the book is a true account of a fictional character¿s life. Hart writes a believable story while maintaining a sort of southern charm that keeps it true to the spirit Twain¿s novels. I really enjoyed this book. There were a few typos that I found distracting (I received an Advanced Reader¿s Copy of the work) but overall it was a very entertaining read. As a fan of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Becky seemed to me the book that would¿ve been written if Mark Twain was a woman. I was enamored with the characters by the very first page and would recommend the book to those that love Twain¿s writing as well as any fans of historical romance. At times sweet, funny, tender, sad, poignant and exciting, Becky:The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher earns a rightful place next to the classics that inspired it.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable recounting of the life of Becky Thatcher, Tom Sawyer's childhood sweetheart. For those of you who enjoy reading backstories or alternate stories of more famous works, this book is for you. The story is told from Becky's point of view, as a married woman, reflecting on the life she's currently leading as well as the exploits of her youth. She is a strong, human, flawed, courageous woman, able to both go to war and keep the biggest of secrets from her husband. The story takes us through Civil War Missouri, from Nevada to San Francisco, to Panama and back again. It's been years since I've read Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, but now that I've read Becky, I don't feel the need to go back and refresh myself. I prefer those stories from a woman's point of view, and Becky offers that and much more.
At first I thought I should wait to read this one after I had re-read The Adventure of Tom Sawyer - but I just couldn't wait. I just meant to open it up and read the first few pages or so, but it pulled me in
What a great back story to Tom Sawyer. Well done in portraying the era, the characteres and their relationships to each other as adults. I sailed right through this with a renewed interest in the original Tom Sawyer. This is an interesting plot not predictable at all and a page turning read. Just don't get all caught up in the details that may not match your idea of perfect regarding the original book. This is just pure fun.
Okay, first off let me justify my review by saying that I absolutely adore Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Mark Twain is my idol. I have read and listened to the books The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn innumerous times.
This book did have a few good points. It was pleasurable to read about Huck, Tom, Mary, Sid and Becky. There were some humorous points. I also enjoyed the author's idea of Becky being more than a sissy girl.
On another note, this book was incorrect and poorly written. If it had not been about Tom and Huck I would have stopped reading it after the first chapter. There were far to many details and irrelevant information. It was tedious. I was willing to just leave it at that, forgive and forget, but Lenore Hart made a fatal flaw. She said Huck Finn could not read or write. That is incorrect. Huck could read. He read to Jim and he read the note in Miss Sophia's Testament. For that reason Lenore Hart is wrong in saying Huck Finn could not read thus he didn't write. Yes it could be like Huck to not write letters to acquaintances but not for lack of literacy. I also believe she portrayed the characters of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer wrong. She made Huck very spiteful and he held a grudge against Becky for a long time. Huck doesn't seem capable of holding a grudge for long. And Tom...well...he just didn't feel like Tom.
So if you want to waste time or get all riled up at the incorrect portrayal of the most beloved literary figures by all means read this book. If, like me, you are looking for a way to revisit your hero's I must kindly tell you to STOP. It isn't worth it. Nobody can make a Tom or Huck like Mr. Mark Twain.
I also could not put it down- I thought it was well written and had me guessing what was going to happen next to Becky and her family. I am really glad I picked up. It paints a different picture of the Tom Sawyer we all loved as kid.
I loved this book! I found I could not put this book down and looked forward to reading it everyday. Even when I was finished reading it I wanted it to continue. I would recommend this everyone, even those who didn't read Tom Sawyer. It is a really well written book. So detailed you can imagine the characters and places. One of my new favorite books.