Hi! This week I’m reviewing a book that I recently finished for school. While it wasn’t my most favorite pick, it did feel like a valuable gem (especially in what is typical of today’s reading), and I think it’s worthy to be shared with readers who will appreciate its emphasis on nature and good values.
There may be some spoilers as I try to give an accurate picture of the book.
(The discussion questions will have spoilers, since they are supposed to be used after reading the book.)
Title: A Girl of the Limberlost
Author: Gene Stratton-Porter
Series: No established series, but apparently there is a prequel called Freckles, which I have not read by the time I post this review.
Targeted Age Range: 14-18
Synopsis: Rejected by her embittered mother and scorned by her classmates, Elnora Comstock seeks consolation in nature amid the wilds of eastern Indiana's Limberlost Swamp. Teeming with danger as well as beauty, the vast marshland offers Elnora an unexpected way to build a better life.
Language: No actual cursing, though a few mentions of name-calling and harsh verbal judgments of people.
Violence: Some mentions of physical abuse between a mother and child (later their relationship is restored, so it is not always this way). One of the main elements of this story is Elnora and her mother dealing with the death of her late husband, often in unpredictable ways. Some examples of this are hoarding all of his things, refusing to sell any of her land, and openly grieving near the swamp where he drowned. It's mentioned one of the minor characters had cancer.
Romance/Sexual Stuff: Near the end of the story Elnora meets Phillip Ammon (who at the time they first talk, is engaged to another woman), and he ends up falling in love with her. As Phillip's fiancee is as equally strong-willed and impulsive as him, she clashes with Elnora, considering her a rival. While she acts honorably in the situation, Elnora does mention and demonstrate she cares about him. Without spoiling anything, I'll just write that this is a very focused-on part of the story as a whole. Non-detailed kissing (and a semi detailed description of it) is mentioned.
It's revealed later that the late Mr. Comstock was unfaithful to his wife (a series of actions that is frowned upon).
Spiritual Elements: Though the story is not religious in and of itself it is shown that many of the main characters are Christians/hold to Christian doctrine. Bible verses and Biblical terms are mentioned a couple of times.
References: There are references to various natural terms dealing with moths and plants.
Other Issues: It's mentioned that one group of small children have a father who dies from alcohol abuse.
My Age Range: I think kids aged 14 and up would enjoy this book the most.
Read Aloud: I think this would be better read alone, though it would make a great pick for a mother-daughter or girls' book club.
My Opinion: I first dove into this story because of school. At first it was a little hard for me to get into all of the flowery prose typical of classics, and to root for Elnora as a whole. As I kept reading, though, the characters and situation completely captured my mind and heart.
A Girl of the Limberlost, like the rare Emperor moth Elnora hopes to find, is a treasure among many other moths in the swamp. Not only does it encourage a love of the outdoors through vivid description and settings teeming with life, it also encourages a love for "old-fashioned" principles and ways of living. While Elnora is not the typical, independent heroine of today's fiction, her sensitivity makes her strong, and her compassion shows her courageous in a different sort of way. It certainly felt like ice cream on a hot summer day to me! Two of the side characters in the story also had strong redemption arcs I enjoyed reading through.
I'd suggest A Girl of the Limberlost if you're tired of mainstream books having issues you don't want to read about, are hoping to read about a kinder and gentler heroine, or even want to see the outdoors in a new way. Despite it being published over a century ago, the messages and themes are timeless and relevant, no matter what part of the world you live in.
-After reading the story, what did you like most about Elnora? Was there anything you didn't like about her? If so, what?
-Mrs. Comstock struggles with moving on after her husband's death, while Edith ends up nursing a broken heart. List the particular details of their situation, and compare and contrast both of their arcs.
-Margaret and Billy Sinton must learn to love each other as Billy becomes the Sintons' adopted son. In your opinion, what have Margaret and Billy learned from their new relationship, if anything? Why? (If you're struggling to find examples, go back and reread some of the chapters!)
-In the first half of the book, do you think Elnora changes in any way from her changing circumstances? Why or why not?
-What do you think is A Girl of the Limberlost's theme? Why? What examples can you find from the story that support your opinion?
Thanks for joining me for my review of A Girl of the Limberlost! If you enjoyed this review, please consider sharing it with someone else that would be interested, or recommending the book yourself.
I am still very much open to post requests, both for book reviews and interviews. If you're interested in suggesting something, please check out my Review Policy page. Most of the time I'm scrambling to find more books to review, so I'd love to hear some of the picks you've been reading and thinking about.
Next week, another book review is on its way!