The ReviewA sequel to Clara's first book, Hill Hawk Hattie, this book opens in April of 1883 with Hattie arriving at her grandmother's house. Right away, the reader hears her voice:
Pa said hawks don't crash into mountains or trees. He said they fly alert, watchful. But suppose a hawk got itself blown off course, ended up somewhere strange, somewhere it didn't rightly belong? Could it find its way home, fly back to its nest in the hills again? (p. 1)The imagery of hawks and the theme of Hattie yearning for home repeat themselves. Surrounded by secrets, Hattie tries to get used to living with a grandmother she doesn't know in the house where her deceased mother grew up.
If she [Grandmother] thought we were on the same side together, she might share the shadowy secrets of Grandfather, and why the keys had gone missing and the silver was squirreled away, and why she didn't wear black, and where all the furniture and pictures had gone, and why she had hurried Pa away, and mostly why Ma had run off and never come back. It was a powerful lot to find out. And that's why I had to stay here and behave properly, though sitting so close to Grandmother made me even more lonesome for Pa and Jasper and my real home. (p.28)
A young next door neighbor, Ivy Victoria, pretends to befriend her. Ivy doesn't know that Hattie's mother is dead but relays the town rumor that her mother ran off with her father because her Grandmother killed her Grandfather. This theory only lends credence to Hattie's over-active imagination.
Hattie's relationship with her Grandmother warms up when she sings Hattie the same songs she sang to her mother. That new closeness makes Hattie think,
Somehow I knew it better not to tell Grandmother about Ma's fairies becoming real to her. "Can you hear the fairies in the hemlocks?" Ma would say to me. All I heard was the wind. "See their gossamer wings?" All I saw were rainbows on raindrops or crystals of frost. She would tilt her head and smile. "They wish me to sing and dance with them," she would say. "Will you dance too, Hattie Belle?" The fairy make-believe was mostly enchanting. But I didn't want to dance about in the clearing with invisible things or answer them like they were asking me questions or telling me what to do." (p. 63)On the day that Grandmother unlocks her mother's bedroom, the two of them inspect her mother's dollhouse where she made up imaginary fairies rather than played with dolls. When her Grandmother finds little dresses and cloaks that her mother had made,
A sick feeling came over me like we were caught in a blinding snow together, and I shivered. "She sewed little dresses and bonnets for my clothespin dolls," I said. "She just liked to do it, sew dainty things." I reassured myself that Ma's fairy world had been make-believe and enchanting for both of us until just a few months before she died.
"Yes," Grandmother said slowly, thoughtfully as if she'd stumbled onto something a bit troubling and sad. (p.121)In the end, Hattie discovers the truth of the mental illness that plagued both her grandfather and her mother. This "madness" is dealt with in a very sensitive manner and enables Hattie to make an important decision.
Girls in grades 4-6 will enjoy this historical novel. The only scene that may trouble some sensitive readers is a seance towards the end of the book.