Narratives, diaries and letters woven together, often too tidily, tell the stories of four girls from different generations who each find a way to reclaim their lives on a small Nebraska farm. Hope, whose mother died eight years earlier, is 14 when her latest foster mother, Sarah, brings her to the farm--the site of "earth finds." These archeological treasures, such as barrettes and gold coins, become touchstones for each girl's experience and for Hope's ultimate sense of belonging. Abigail, the daughter of a 19th-century homesteading family unable to meet the demands of the frontier, returns to her prized meadow to die. Rebecca, a hired girl on the farm at the turn of the 20th century, eventually helps to heal the family she works for and marries the son. Her daughter, Anna (Sarah's mother), still runs the farm, and she and Sarah welcome Hope. Unfortunately, Hope's character does not seem convincing; her struggles are too easily won. Some tying of threads across the girls' narratives is contrived, such as Anna's meeting with Abigail just before she dies and the creation of a "story quilt" at the end. However, the letters and diaries, while uneven, offer some of the more fluid passages here and may sustain readers' interest in this first novel. Ages 10-14. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hope carries all she owns in a tattered backpack. For eight years, she has moved from one foster home to another, and it will be four more until she "ages out" of the system at eighteen. Although Sarah, her newest foster mom, seems different, Hope remains emotionally distant. When Sarah moves them from Minneapolis to her family's farm in Nebraska, the summer trip for Hope becomes a journey into the past that changes her future. The farm is filled with memories of women who came beforeAbigail, whose family homesteaded the land in 1869; Rebecca, who came to the farm in 1900 as a hired girl; Anna, Sarah's mother, who survived the "dust bowl" in the 1930s, and Sarah, a child of the sixties, who struggles to reclaim family land raped by the Department of Defense during the cold war. Through letters, diary entries, stories and journals, Hope comes to know these special women and through them, comes to know herself. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures of times past are skillfully woven through this well-crafted first novel. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, $15.00. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Ellen R. Braaf
This is Gray's first novel. She spent her childhood on a farm in Nebraska, which her great-grandparents had startedan experience that seems the basis for this story of five generations of young adolescent girls who find security on the same piece of this Earth, a farm in Nebraska. The story begins with modern-day Hope, a foster child who feels that she has no real home, even though her most recent foster mother Sarah is a loving woman trying hard. Sarah takes Hope to Nebraska for a summer at the farm where Sarah grew up. There Hope reads letters written in 1869 by Abigail, the first young woman to live on the farm, her family's homestead. Disaster drove the family away, and the next young woman to find a home in that place was a servant named Rebecca. Another story of the farm, which happened during the Great Depression, is told by Anna, who as an older woman now chooses to narrate her story to Hope face to face. Sarah, Hope's new mother, is trying to figure out how to save the farm. What Hope understands is that many young women before her suffered great hardship and survived, in some ways healed by the land, working on the farm. The strength of those who lived on the farm before her gives her the courage to find that strength in herself. The mechanics of telling this multi-generational tale are perhaps a bit forced, but acceptably so. There is something enormously appealing about considering what has transpired and who has lived in this very same house, on this same land. A poem by Linda Hogan introduces this novel,"...This land is the house/we have always lived in./ the women,/ their bones are holding up the earth." KLIATT Codes: JSRecommended for junior and seniorhigh school students. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, 210p, 99-052637, $15.00. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
This novel is about finding connections between people, family, and place. Hope feels disconnected after the car accident that killed her mother when Hope was starting first grade. Now fourteen years old, she has bounced from foster home to foster home. The only connections she has made are in the treasure of earth-finds, Hope's word for her portable collection of objects she has lifted from each foster home. Her newest foster mom, Sarah, takes her from Minnesota to Nebraska to visit Sarah's mother, Anna. Through the lives of four generations of young women, Hope learns that family can be found in a place, even a meadow. Hope establishes her connection and gains a valuable life lesson by reading letters sent by Abigail, the first homesteader who cleared the land for Anna's farm, and by finding the thimble that Abigail lost eighty years ago. Rebecca, Anna's mother, is the next young girl whom Hope discovers, strengthening her connection to people and place, through Rebecca's hair clip and journal. Anna tells her own story and gives Hope a ring that completes the circle of many stories, and finally Sarah shares hers in the form of a high school English composition. Although the framework of this novel is somewhat contrived and the artifacts Hope finds are predictable, this book is an easy, fast-paced read. This highly recommended book can be read on many levelshistorical, psychological, structural, or artistic. Each level is fascinating and fulfilling. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000,Houghton Mifflin, 224p, $15. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Ann T. Reddy-Damon
SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4)
Gr 5-8-Gray uses a contemporary character to frame stories of four generations of young teens who lived on a Nebraska farm. Hope, 14, is spending the summer at the childhood home of her latest and most-promising foster parent, Sarah. Sarah's mother, Anna, gives the teen some old letters written by Abby, a pioneer girl who describes the initial breaking of the earth around the homestead in 1869 and the wonder of the meadow beyond the soddy in which she lived. Next, Anna gives Hope her mother's journal, which tells how her stepfather sent her to work for the stern owner who bought the failing farm from Abby's father. Anna then tells Hope her own story, and, finally, Sarah's journal tells of the day the Air Force came to install a nuclear missile silo in the meadow. All of the memoirs are tied together poetically, with significant artifacts and details appearing in each, and the meadow figuring prominently in each woman's experience. While all the narratives are not equally compelling, many themes and symbols create a rich quilt of memories that helps Hope find a place to call home among the generations of women who have inhabited this farm.-Elizabeth A. Kaminetz, L. Douglas Wilder Middle School, Richmond, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Carrying her battered Garfield backpackwhich carries a small bag of her mother's ashes14-year-old Hope accompanies Sarah, her current in a long line of foster mothers, to Nebraska. Anna, Sarah's mother, runs her own farm there, and when she begins to tell Hope the stories of the remarkable women who have preserved the farmland and its accompanying meadow, Hope's distance toward her foster family gives way to curiosity. Although the women have much in common, first-time author Gray lets each one tell her own story using a blend of writing formats. Hope first explores letters written by Abigail, whose father staked the original claim; pores over Rebecca's diary, which records the girl adjusting to life as a servant for a German immigrant family; and listens to Anna recount an oral history of the Depression era. Finally, Hope comes to understand Sarah better after reading about Sarah and Anna's fight to keep a missile silo from being placed in the meadow. In between learning about these past efforts, Hope forges her own identity and confronts her grief. After first believing that memories ". . . couldn't be shared," Hope finds that the strength and history of women is a memory to be owned and shared by all women. While the experienced adult reader may find that the plot comes together too easily, young adolescents will overlook this minor flaw as descriptions of a soft, wet newborn calf and other memories of the farm entice the senses. An excellent candidate for mother/daughter book groups, Holding Up the Earth will become a collective memory for young teenage girls. (Fiction. 11-14)Hall, Zoe FALL LEAVES FALL! Illus. by Shari Halpern Scholastic (40 pp.) Oct. 2000