Verdict: 5 Stars
It’s been nearly six years since fans of the Newberry Honor book Hattie Big Sky closed the covers on the story of a sixteen-year-old orphan who tried–and ultimately, failed–to make a success of the Montana homestead claim left to her by a long lost uncle. We cried right alongside her as the hail storm destroyed the crops she needed in order to pay off the claim, and a piece of our hearts died right alongside hers as the tiny Muller daughter died in her arms. It was so real to readers because it was real to the author, who pieced Hattie’s story together from family stories and historical accuracy.
The research that Larson put into her first Hattie title comes through again as she picks up where Hattie’s life on the farm left off in Hattie Ever After (Delacorte). Now working as a cleaning girl in a boarding house, Hattie’s less-than-glamorous life takes her to unexpected heights as she travels to the big city of San Francisco to try her hand at writing. Her childhood friend Charlie is home from the fighting in WWI a changed man, more certain than ever that he wants to settle down with a wife and family, even as fellow reporter Ned tries to keep Hattie in the middle of the excitement of big city life.
When other authors have tried to revisit a much-loved young adult title after years apart, the results have sometimes been disastrous. The voice that once enthralled readers is no longer the same and the author’s own life circumstances have led them to alter the story line or insert some of the agony of their own lives into those of their characters. Larson stays remarkably true to Hattie’s story, all while recounting details of post-WWI west and treating readers to the same fears and insecurities that led the once Hattie-Here-and-There to find fault in herself.