March 26, 2013

Emily of Deep Valley, by Maud Hart Lovelace

This month I reread one of my all-time favorite books (and likely my favorite young adult/children's book of all time).  Emily of Deep Valley, a book by Maud Hart Lovelace, is an easy read, though full of depth and noble character.

(May I just suggest you get a copy of this for yourself and then share it with a few teens?  Though it is one of my favorite books, I lend my copy willingly because I want others to meet Emily!  This surprises me because sometimes I like to keep special things to myself.)

We meet Emily Webster just as she is graduating from high school.  Unlike her friends, she is sorry to see it end because it means the end of her schooling and her future seems empty without college.  Though she is a very ambitious girl, she will remain with her elderly grandfather to care for him, just as he has done since she was orphaned at a young age.

Emily loves her grandfather, and does not feel caring for him is an obligation.  She wants to do it from the tender love within her.  However, once her friends leave Deep Valley for college, depression sets in.  She knows she needs to fight it.  She struggles with her own desires (which many would declare are her "right" to an education as Carrie discussed in her review of this book), but she puts family first, sacrificially and without complaining.

Before long, Emily finds that keeping busy helps her.  She signs up for dancing classes and seeks out assistance to begin a book club.  Soon, Emily and her grandfather befriend the Syrian neighbors who are often tormented and hassled-or just ignored- by the folks of Deep Valley.  As she gets to know the children, she is welcomed into their homes and soon meets their families.  In time, she seeks out some friends who might help the Syrians in practical ways such as teaching English and history.

Emily learns that education does not need an institution.  Nor does she need to go to the city to have her own Hull House, like Jane Adams.  She grows a great deal right in Deep Valley and helps others in meaningful ways.

Emily is a character I would have been friends with...in high school or as an adult.  She is thoughtful and witty.  She has a great mind and shows it, though among friends she often lets them do all the talking.  Emily considers others before herself.  Isn't she the way we often want to be?

In addition to the noble character of Emily, the reader embraces the history within the book.  Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day) was a time to honor soldiers, and the town of Deep Valley, and the individuals within it, did so with passion and zeal.  Emily's grandfather added to the richness of the book...not only as a character but in how Emily treated him and how all his generation were respected and honored.

Maud Hart Lovelace showed great foresight in 1950 as she wrote about racism and depression (though it was not called by name) in Emily of Deep Valley.  These heavy topics still make for a delightful read as we see how Emily overcomes difficult situations.

Like the Betsy-Tacy Series, the Deep Valley Books (including this one) are based on real events and people.  The newer editions (published by Harper Perennial Modern Classics) provide wonderful additional information for the reader about the real people.  Emily is based upon the life of Marguerite Marsh.  Thank you Marguerite for befriending many and for Maud who chose to share her story!

If you have a younger child, be sure to explore the Betsy-Tacy series.  (Linked to my thoughts.)

~ Annette {This Simple Mom}

5 comments:

  1. This sounds good. I'm almost wishing I had read this instead of the Betsy-Tacy books. Though I highly value my college education -- it wasn't a "given" in my family -- neither of my parents went and only one of my siblings went, and then only for a year -- still, I do acknowledge that it's not God's plan for everyone. It's so important to be faithful wherever we are, even if we seem 'hidden away" in comparison to others.

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  2. Oh. Thank you for pointing out that Decoration Day is now Memorial Day. I was confused and forgot to look that up. :D

    I would like to be friends with Emily also and I DO think the book is a good one for girls today to think on. As you say, Emily was very noble and self-sacrificial. Not traits commonly found today. I like that she is real (she really struggled with her sacrifices) but does the right thing. Definitely something to admire.

    I loved this book also and am SO glad I had a chance to read it! Thanks for choosing Lovelace this month!

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  3. As much as I loved the one I read, I almost regret not getting back in this one! Emily is still my favorite, too, so far, but I still have quite a few to read. :)

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  4. I have read all the Betsy-Tacy books many times, but this one holds a special place for me, even though it is a darker, more serious book. In a day and age when everyone is concerned about their own fulfillment and rights, this book is a quiet reminder of duty, obligation, and finding your place in the world. I love it.

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