Sunday, October 2, 2022

Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen (author), Cynthia Bishop (narrator), Lauren Synger (narrator), David Baker (narrator), JoAnna D'Aloisio (narrator), Seth Jackson (narrator), Willard E. Lape, Jr. (narrator), Kate Huddleston (narrator), David Bostick (narrator), Bruce Coville (narrator), Emily Meidenbauer (narrator), Victoria King (narrator), Carol Sprading (narrator)

Full Cast Audio, ISBN 9781933322254, August 2004 (original publication 1956)

Marly, Joe, and their parents have been struggling for a while, since the father of the children returned home from war.. In addition to the experience of combat itself, he was captured, and in a prisoner of war camp for months. He was then hospitalized for a while before being able to return home.

But Daddy is suffering from what today we would call PTSD. He reacts very strongly to loud or sudden noises, is often sunk in depression, and equally often reacts to even small disagreements, even between others, with a frightening anger. Marly sometimes guiltily thinks things were better before Daddy came home.

But their mother, Lee, has inherited her grandmother's farm in New England. Her brother lived in it after Grandmother died, but he's gone now too. The farm is available, to get them out of the city, into the country and the open air, and a way of life different from the one that her husband can't seem to cope with anymore. With some prodding from Marly, whether that factored in or not, they move to the farm, initially just for school break, and start fixing it up.

Grandmother always told Lee that miracles happened on Maple Hill, and Marly in particular is hoping that's true.

The first people they meet, when they have not quite made it to the farm, are the Chris family. Mr. Chris tows them out of the slick spot on the road, and Mrs. Chris--Chrissy--invites them to stay for dinner. This is exactly what the children's father hoped to avoid--country people who are always helping each other and everyone knows everybody's business. Yet the dinner is wonderful, the Chrises are friendly and welcoming, and Lee doesn't have to cook for everyone when they reach the farm after the long drive from Pennsylvania.

Over the next weeks, the hoped-for miracles start to happen. They found Mr. Chris, or Chris as everyone calls him, at his sugar camp, making maple syrup. It's the first time Marly and Joe have tasted maple syrup made from sap boiled down straight from the tree. Both the children get to help, and to Marly, it's a miracle.

Over school break, Joe and Marly both learn a few lessons, and have adventures with Chris, as he teaches each of them to see the natural world all around them. Lee is enjoying (mostly) restoring her grandmother's farm to a working home again. Daddy is doing repairs, and when school break is over, he stays to continue the work. He seems a little calmer and less stressed, but no dramatic change yet.

Over the summer and the next winter, they encounter miracles of nature, interaction with animals both domestic and wild. It's a gentle story of a family rebuilding itself, and making a new life after their father's experiences in the war (the war is not named, but either World War II or Korea are plausible), made life in the city and returning to his old job untenable.

It's important to remember that it is the 1950s, and there's a long list of things Girls Are Not Allowed To Do, that boys are. The book accepts this as normal, but Marly is "a tomboy." She resists those restrictions, and sometimes she wins. There are also occasional bits of language that were normal then and seem questionable now. I'm old enough to remember when "squaw" was accepted as "the Indian word for woman," but all these decades later, it pulled me up short to here it in a story a teacher tells about how Indians learned to make maple syrup.

Still, this is a very gentle, positive, warm story about a family coming together.


I bought this audiobook.

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