Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson is the sequel to her incredibly popular much beloved Newbery Honor book Hattie Big Sky. It's been a while since I read the first book. I remember enjoying it, but I enjoyed Hattie Ever After even more. Probably because I am a city girl and my eyes sort of glaze over reading anything about the prairie. Also Hattie Ever After is really well crafted.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
After leaving Uncle
Chester's homestead claim, orphan Hattie Brooks throws a lasso around a
new dream, even bigger than the Montana sky. She wants to be a reporter,
knowing full well that a few pieces published in the Arlington News
will not suffice. Real reporters must go to Grand Places, and do Grand
Things, like Hattie's hero Nellie Bly. Another girl might be stymied by
this, but Hattie has faced down a hungry wolf and stood up to a mob of
angry men. Nothing can squash her desire to write for a big city
newspaper. A letter and love token from Uncle Chester's old flame in San
Francisco fuels that desire and Hattie jumps at the opportunity to get
there by working as a seamstress for a traveling acting troupe. This
could be her chance to solve the mystery of her "scoundrel" uncle and,
in the process, help her learn more about herself. But Hattie must first
tell Charlie that she will not join him in Seattle. Even though her
heart approves of Charlie's plan for their marriage, her mind fears that
saying yes to him would be saying no to herself. Hattie holds her own
in the big city, literally pitching her way to a byline, and a career
that could be even bigger than Nellie Bly's. But can making headlines
compensate for the pain of betrayal and lost love? Hattie must dig deep
to find her own true place in the world.
The greatest strength of the novel is Hattie's voice. From word one she is there with you, her own independent person telling you a story. Hattie is distinctive, a character not to be confused with any other or the reader's own self. Lively, independent, and head strong Hattie sets out to make a name for herself, to find her own place in the world outside of anyone else's shadow. I admire how Larson used Hattie to highlight the emergence of women in the work force following World War I and the struggle they had, while at the same time maintaining the light tone of the novel. Hattie is a vibrant and happy girl and even when knocked down she finds the hope and light in her situation. There are times when the reader can see Hattie's naivete is allowing others to take advantage of her. At the same time, without it she wouldn't be Hattie.
The setting is a close close second to voice as far as strengths go. Larson makes 1919 San Fransisco come to life giving just enough details to help you envision it without overdoing it. This is a fine balance in historical fiction and Larson is a pro at it. I could see the city, the Chronicle's newsroom, the hotel where Hattie lived, all of it. The people of the city are captured well too and, while some are stereotypical, none are flat.
I loved reuniting with Hattie and following her on yet another adventure, watching her grow and change yet again. This was an almost perfect read. The end felt rushed, but as the outcome was so much to my liking I'm having a hard time caring too much about that.
This is a review of a copy received from Random House via NetGalley. Hattie Ever After will be available for purchase on February 12.