Romance, history, and a murder mystery could produce a page turning book enough on their own, but Donnelly is brilliant at setting up page turns such as this one, which ends a first page description of a perfect summer day in the North Woods and the belief that all days will go on like this: "I believe these things. With all my heart. For I am good at telling myself lies" (Donnelly 1).
Donnelly doesn't shy away from the harshness of life and I loved the raw emotion in the scene where narrator Mattie goes to visit her childhood friend, Minnie, after the birth of Minnie's twins. Minnie's cabin is a mess and she's trying to breastfeed both babies at once. She hands the babies to Mattie to get tea for her visitor. Mattie has trouble hiding her reaction to the babies:
"I was trying to settle them, so they'd stop screaming, so the wet from the diapers wouldn't soak into my skirt, when the next thing I knew, Minnie was standing over me, her arms at her side, her hands clenched.
"Give them to me! Give them back! Don't look at them like that! Don't look at me! Just get out! Go! Get out of here!" she shouted.
"Min...I...I'm sorry! I wasn't...I didn't mean..."
But it was too late. Miinie was hysterical. She crushed the babies to here and started to cry. "You hate them, don't you, Mattie? Don't you?"
"Minnie! What are you saying?"
"I know you do. I hate them, too. Sometimes. I do." Her voice had dropped to a whisper. Her eyes were tormented" (Donnelly 271).
And the descriptions, oh the character descriptions! "Once I saw Beth lift her head at the sound of a coyote's cry at twilight. Her eyes widened - half in wonder, half in fear - and I saw that she would be beautiful someday. Not just pretty, truly beautiful. I saw the restlessness in Lawton long before he left. I saw it when he was only a boy and would toss sticks and leaves into the rushing waters of the Moose River and watch them go where he could not" (Donnelly 280).
My copy is filled with sticky notes marking even more favorite passages, but for now I have to get back to my own writing.