It is 1820 and Cassie lives on a farm in Maine with her parents and three brothers. One of them, Will, damages his leg with an axe as he hears Cassie scream while he is chopping wood. The gangrene and days of near-death suffering that ensue eventuate in amputation of the leg. During this crisis Cassie is Will's primary caretaker, partly because she feels the accident was her fault.

Their father wants to let Will die, as he feels there will be no life for him as an amputee. But Will survives and he and Cassie go to live with an older married sister in town where Will finds he has talents and options that might never have occurred to him had he simply grown into the farming life he loved. The year following the accident in this way opens both Cassie's and Will's imaginations to other kinds of lives to be lived. For Cassie it awakens a longing to do medical work, as caring for Will has made her aware of the deep satisfactions of caregiving.


Competence with historical detail and a lively representation of the inner life of a thoughtful, sensitive adolescent girl make this book engaging, readable, and useful in the window it provides on a history of attitudes toward disability, toward women, and toward education in a largely rural Euro-American population of New England settlers. The book is rich with local detail, straightforward in its presentation of medical facts, and compassionate in its treatment of complex family dynamics in a time of medical crisis and grief. A fine addition to school or hospital libraries, and a good read for kids dealing with their own or siblings' or friends' disabilities.


Margaret K. McElderry Books

Place Published

New York



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