Back-to-School in the NW Frontier
The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, by J. Anderson Coats
We read another book by the author, J. Anderson Coats, R is for Rebel, two Christmases ago and really liked it.
We decided to give this one a try, and we're glad we did. My daughter and I loved it. The cover art is fantastic in capturing the essence of this book. It's an East Coast girl meets West Coast wilderness and is transformed by her story.
It's an example of a book with a gentle, quiet conflict. There are no obvious villains, she's not trying to survive in horrific conditions (although the story does revolve around nature and weather, a lot). It's more centered around Jane Deming's personal, internal struggle to "fit-in" on the Northwest Pacific frontier.
While Jane's step-mother, who's also a widow, comes to the Washington territory planning to marry a banker, Jane's got no such illusions. She's her little brother's babysitter and nothing more to her step-mom.
But Jane promised her father, before he died, that she'd finish school. It's the one thing that keeps her going on the long sea voyage to Seattle, and in fact is the only thing that helps the two young women earn cold, hard cash to keep them afloat for a little while.
When Jane's step-mother finally gets off the boat, what greets them is not a hotel filled with rich, eligible bankers. Not even penniless bank tellers. Rather, it's a horde of rag-tag roughs who crawled out of the wilderness looking to bring home brides in canoes.
Jane meets and steers her step-mother toward the one man in the bunch who seems gentle and kind: Mr. Wright. (I wondered, as I read, if the pun was intended?)
What happens next is the meat of the story, how Mr. Wright and the natural environment all around Jane shape and mold her, until she realizes she's getting the education she promised her father she'd get -- even if there's no certificate or diploma at the end.
It was a joy to read!
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