by Karen McCombie
Historical Fiction – Middle Grade (book 1)
12-year-old Bridie lives with her family on a remote island of Scotland in 1861. As much as she loves her island, her family, and her best friend, she fears being “stuck” on the island forever. She’d never admit this to her hardworking family or anyone else for that matter, but when change comes to the island in a bad way, they are all forced to think about options beyond their island home. It’s not exactly the adventure Bridie had hoped for but she must face life’s challenges and make the best of some very difficult situations.
Why I Picked This Book:
This was a no-brainer for me. I love middle-grade books, I love historical fiction, and I love Scotland. I bought this before I traveled to Scotland last year as something to have upon my return to sort of “keep me in Scotland”.
What Was Disappointing:
Me. I was disappointing. I have such a difficult time committing to books, it’s in almost every book review I write; “slow start”. I know it’s me, but I also know I can’t be the only person out there to have a form of ADD, possible dyslexia, and/or simply be bogged down with so much in life that concentration is difficult. So yes, this book had a very slow start for me. So much so that I’ve started and stopped reading it more times than I’d like to admit. I guess the first chapter didn’t draw me in enough. It was a bit too much internal dialogue from a character I didn’t know enough about or care about yet. But by all means, DO NOT let that stop you if you are a reader like me who struggles with getting attached to books. I IMPLORE you to continue reading!
Why I Kept Reading:
I can’t say I kept reading because the adventure kicked in and the paced quickened. I mean, it picks up and I sped read through the entire second half, but this is definitly more of a “quiet” book. What made me keep reading was how the writer made me fall in love. I fell in love with the island, with Bridie, and fell deeply into the entire isle setting of 1861. Karen McCombie is a time travler and made me one too. She made me fall in love with Bridie’s home as much as her characters did. I became and islander. I was one of them. I was there. When a writer can make me love a character, that’s always great. But when a writer can make me love a place, that’s amazing to me. So when that place is threatened by the new Laird of the island, I was absolutley emotionally invested.
Admittingly, I don’t believe my younger self would have read this book. It’s a slow book along the lines of “The Secret Garden” or even “Treasure Island”. Stories I loved as a child in movie versions, but could not hold still long enough to read them. There were points in my reading that I thought “how is this a kid’s book?” but had to remember loads of kids (my sister and all four of her children included) who read ferociously without any troubles at all. And beyond taking one to 1861 island life in Scotland, this book deals with family, death, being ‘different’, responsibilities, cultural barriers, class wars, and of course, history. And all of this is brought to you from a 12-year-old girl’s perspective as she deals with her own grief, guilt, and hopes as she watches her world change in ways she never could imagine. She’s a powerful young character that would do anyone well to get to know.
This book was such a nice surprise. I thought it would be interesting, I didn’t know it would grip me in such a way that I would be crying a bit while writing it’s review. Good tears and sad tears, because that’s just how life is right? The writing in this book does everything I hope to acheive as a writer. Yes, I finished this book last week or so and I am STILL emotional over it. Every synopsis I have read makes it seem as though there isn’t much to it: She lives and an island and you know she gets off because there’s already a sequel that takes place in America so really, what’s left to find out? Do not deprive yourself of reading about Bridie’s adventures. Even if you start slow like me, dive deep into this story because it has much to tell.
To the author – thank you for Patch the dog!