A Northern Light

  • by Jennifer Donnelly
  • Narrated by Hope Davis
  • 8 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Mattie Gokey has a word for everything. She collects words, stores them up as a way of fending off the hard truths of her life, the truths that she can't write down in stories. The fresh pain of her mother's death. The burden of raising her sisters while her father struggles over his brokeback farm. The mad welter of feelings Mattie has for handsome but dull Royal Loomis, who says he wants to marry her. And the secret dreams that keep her going: visions of finishing high school, going to college in New York City, becoming a writer.
Yet when the drowned body of a young woman turns up at the hotel where Mattie works, all her words are useless. But in the dead woman's letters, Mattie again finds her voice, and a determination to live her own life.
Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, this coming-of-age novel effortlessly weaves romance, history and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.


What the Critics Say

"Donnelly's characters ring true to life, and the meticulously described setting forms a vivid backdrop to this finely crafted story. An outstanding choice for historical-fiction fans." (School Library Journal)
"In an intelligent, colloquial voice that speaks with a writer's love of language and an observant eye, Mattie details the physical particulars of people's lives as well as deeper issues of race, class, and gender...Many teens will connect with Mattie's deep yearning for independence and for stories, like her own, that are frank, messy, complicated, and inspiring." (Booklist)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Well written fiction for adults and adolescents

I liked this book before I bought it because I'm familiar with the time and place in which it is set. But to my very pleasant surprise, I found that the real interest that this book holds is the way the author captures the process of discernment -- how we direct our own lives. How do we know what to do with our lives? Which promises do we have to keep and which ones can we break when circumstances change? The portrayal here of the process of moral deliberation really resonated with me, and I'm 42 -- well past the point of wondering what to do with my life. But I think adolescents will really get a lot out of this book. I expect my 9-year-old daughter will enjoy it in five or six years. (My son, not so much -- but maybe I'll change my mind about that as time goes by.)
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- Mark Grannis

Good listen

I loved this book. It has enough mystery and intrigue to keep the adult listenter interested, but is also suitable for the younger listener as well. Highly enjoyable.
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- idiganthro

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-07-2003
  • Publisher: Listening Library