The Hired Girl by Amy Laura Schlitz (Walker Books)
HC RRP $27.99
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
This magnificent story is set just before WW1. Joan is a powerful main character. She is strong in body and mind, fearless, but innocent and naïve. She has a plan for her life and is determined to see it through. The secondary characters are equally outstanding. They storm into the scenes vibrant and energetic, each with a force that makes the reader pay attention to every word and action. The dialogue is incredible!
Joan is a fourteen year old farm girl with an intelligent mind and great potential. When her mother dies, her father takes her out of school to fill her mother’s role in caring for the three male family members. She has no choice. Her father, a bitter and angry man blames Joan’s existence for the loss of his wife. He sees his daughter as ugly and invisible to him, and only there for a slave’s role.
Joan decides to strike in demand for a pittance from the income of the eggs her chickens lay. Her father’s response is to burn the three only books she owns that her teacher presented her with as encouragement to strive for higher things in life. This too, was her mother’s longing for her. Towards this end, her mother had secretly sewn money she got from her egg sales, into Joan’s doll’s clothes. This was to be used to educate herself.
Propelled by her father’s actions and her mother’s money, Joan runs away from the farm towards the life that she dreams of, and will have no matter what.
This is the story of her journey to becoming who she was meant to be. The Jewish family that take her in have a great influence on her life. But her Catholic upbringing will be cause for conflict.
This is a fantastic book about strength, and the power of believing you can. With one of the best covers I’ve seen in ages, this story by the Newbery Medal winner for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, makes me want to sing with pleasure. Its emotive and perfectly crafted storyline will stay with you long after the book is read.