I had no idea that Kirby Larson had published a sequel to Hattie Big Sky, her Newbery honor book from 2007. (I liked it so much that I read it not once, but twice, and interviewed the author.) When I learned of this sequel in Becky’s review of it, I hied me to my library and requested they purchase it and add it to their collection. Now that I’ve read Hattie Ever After, I can say that I still love Hattie Inez Brown as much as ever, and I found Kirby Larson‘s writing as compelling as ever. In this new chapter in Hattie’s story, a seventeen year old Hattie finds herself restlessly looking for a way to satisfy her compulsion to write. She leaves Montana under the employ of a Vaudeville troupe, but when they get to San Francisco, she trades in her job as a wardrobe mistress for a stint as a housekeeper at the San Francisco Chronicle. Sure–it’s not the reporter’s job that she wants, but at least working there after hours will make her privy to the goings-on there, as well as give her access to the morgue where she will discover she has a talent for research. In this story, Hattie does what she does best: she rises to the occasion and proves that she’s more than capable to handle whatever comes her way. In Hattie Ever After, this includes the solving of a mystery involving Uncle Clarence (the relative who left her his Montana homestead in Hattie Big Sky), dealing with a wily and conniving scam artist, and figuring out just what Charlie Hawley means to her. In this novel, Hattie makes the leap into the adult world, and she does it with no major blunders and with lots of adventure. I love the romantic element in this story–it’s just the right amount for a story for a young teen. I can’t finish this book review, either, without once again handing out a few kudos to Kirby Larson for her style. Hattie’s spunkiness and well-articulated view of the world leap off the page in this story. Here’s a vignette that elicited an audible chuckle from me:
I switched on the kitchen light and was startled to find that someone had been sitting in the dark. It was Miss Vera Clare, all afroth in a filmy lavender dressing gown. Her face, cleansed of makeup, was weary and lined. No one would mistake her for a rare beauty of the stage at this moment.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she said. “So I started the coffee.”
I got out mugs, sugar, and cream. The percolater gave a dainty blurp to signal it was done brewing. Miss Clare stirred four heaping teaspoons of sugar into the filled mug I handed her.
“You’ve heard the news, I would imagine.” She took a tentative sip, then stirred in another spoonful.
I nodded and began beating eggs in a bowl.
“Evidently, they’d been planning this since we played Chicago.” She closed her eyes, leaning her head against the chair back, and patted at the underside of her chin with the back of her left hand. After a dozen or so pats, she righted her head. “I recommend this exercise. With your round face, you’ll be prone to creping in the neck. Most unbecoming.”
I’d never given my neck much thought before, aside from the occasional wince when I got a crick in it. At Miss Clare’s words, however, I felt its flesh begin to loosen and wrinkle. I lifted my head a bit higher. (13)
Isn’t that funny? Larson‘s writing reminds me a bit of Richard Peck’s, which is high praise indeed. (I’ve written about a couple of Peck’s novels–here and here–though neither of these bests the poignant hilarity of A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago.) My only criticism of Hattie Ever After is that the pacing seems a little erratic toward the end of the story, which I remember also feeling about Larson‘s The Friendship Doll. Still, this is an entertaining and satisfying (not to mention educational) conclusion of Hattie’s story. I give this a Highly Recommended for teens and adults who enjoy a good piece of historical fiction. (Delacorte, 2013)
(As a side note–isn’t that a gorgeous book cover? Hattie’s wardrobe is brought up several times in the novel, and I have to say that the beautiful young woman on the cover exceeds the portrait my imagination had composed. I still love it, though.)