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Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter

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Reviewed by Nancy Young

A humid climate would not be our first choice of habitat. We like the look of the landscape in such climates, but definitely prefer arid air. Above all, we abhor snakes. Consequently, swamps are not our idea of dream locales for either recreation or residence. That being said, we find Gene Stratton Porter's ability to spin a yarn one of the finest we've ever encountered. She is a writer among writers, who very nearly convinces us that a swamp teaming with lethal wildlife is a paradise on earth.

Her spirit altogether takes wing in verbal symphonies about the wonders of the Limberlost. And for someone (like Al) who knows neither the common nor the uncommon names of plants, her descriptions of setting are altogether enchanting.

The characters in her stories struggle to know and master themselves. Some do good, some don't. Some are gifted, some aren't. Some are twisted by misfortune, others meet and best adversity. Throughout these stories from the Limberlost there is resilience in the human spirit that struggles sometimes against nature and sometimes against incarnations of evil. Hope and believing and the work and struggle rising from them win out in the end.

Freckles is an orphan, maimed in childhood, so that he has only one hand. Crippled physically and in other ways, he wins the heart of a rough-and-tumble man who owns the timber in the vast Limberlost. The timber is worth a fortune. Guarding it is a daunting task even for a whole man. But with a father-like faith in a boy's courage and spirit, Mr. McLean gives Freckles the job. The man-sized struggle of a boy as he faces the perils of the swamp and the perils of his own soul are presented with a deftness that holds the reader fast.

The old story of true merit shining through outward appearances finds an intriguing slant in the unlikely romance of the lovely, wealthy town girl we know only as "Angel", and the stalwart, affection-starved Freckles. This is a tale of adventure if ever there was one, yet it runs deep in matters of heart and soul.

The phraseology, particularly of Freckles, sometimes dips into the very sentimental; but that is easily remedied by quick verbal editing when reading aloud. That is, of course, after you've mastered Freckles' brogue.

Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter is featured in Vol 7 No 4 of The Storybook Home Journal.

Tags: Vol. 7 No. 4, 2010, Book reviews

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