The Goodbye Season by Marian Hale
Released September 2009.
This is Hale’s third historical novel. Set during the 1918 epidemic, it follows young Mercy. The member of a sharecropper’s family, she is so poor that her family is forced to send her away to work for someone ten miles from them just to have her fed. Mercy works hard and soon bonds with the couple she serves and their two hired men. But after one trip to town, one hired man is dead and Mercy is sent away for her own safety. She returns home to her family, finding the house empty and her mother and three siblings buried near the house. Mercy is now alone and penniless. She finds a job taking care of a woman and her two small children. But something is strange about the family and Mercy finds herself drawn to the older stepson who may know the answer to the mystery.
An intricate tale of loss, grief, mystery, and love, this book is well plotted and filled with surprises. Mercy is a heroine who never despairs, works incredibly hard, and makes her own way. She is gentle, sweet and yet strong and resilient. At the same time, she is conflicted and unsure often. She is a character worth spending time with in her complexity. The 1918 epidemic will fascinate teens who are hearing about swine flu around them. The devastation of the epidemic is clearly evoked without becoming graphic or overwhelming.
One quibble I have is with the cover art. Why, why, why is Mercy wearing lipgloss and mascara?! Love the hair, the face, the look, the setting. But the makeup just doesn’t work.
An historical novel that is sure to please, this book while about a 17-year-old character would be appropriate for readers as young as 12.